The Writer’s Sense and You
Writing and its accompanying processes are often fluid and subjective.
Other than a few pieces of basic advice, nothing that I—or anyone else—tells is you 100% applicable 100% of the time. That lack of absolutes means that you’re going to need to develop your “writer’s sense” to achieve productive, good writing.
What do You Mean by “Writer’s Sense”?
So, your writer’s sense won’t clue you into imminent danger (unless paired with a radioactive spider, but that’s not a combination I necessarily recommend).
However, what it can do is help you find the “just right” spot that leads to consistent, credible, and engaging writing. Basically, a well-honed writer’s sense will tell you when you’ve found a good topic, when you’re conveying trustworthy information, and when you’re writing in a way that will connect with your audience.
In other words, part of writing is learning to feel into what’s working and what’s not.
That Sounds Really Vague.
It is! Until it’s not. Writing is not all that different from the other skills and abilities we learn to do. Some of those tasks come easier to us than others, but very, very few of us are just naturally adept at anything.
Even with talent, we have to work to improve, and it is the experience of working to improve that generates the “sense” of whether we’re moving in the right direction. We figure out approaches and techniques that give us the results we like, and we determine the methods or mindsets that do not produce the outcomes we want.
Our “sense” is really just our mind’s way of reviewing, collating, and assessing all the different experiences we’ve had and giving us its best estimate of how to proceed. In other words, our sense—intuition, gut feeling, or instinct if you prefer—is fundamentally rooted in doing things.
Awesome! So, I Just Need to Write 3 Million Words and I’ll be a Writing Genius?
I love your enthusiasm, but no. While doing things is the foundation of our sense or instinct, we are also influenced by current events and external inputs. In particular, the advice, feedback, and suggestions we get from others is a vital part of the whole “getting good” endeavor.
(Coaches are a thing for a reason, y’all.)
You could write 3 million words, and you’d probably learn at least a few important lessons (like when you’re most productive or that you use “literally” way too often and not at all correctly). But. You wouldn’t really have developed any sense of whether your writing was working for an audience, i.e., as a product that interacts with the world.
To get that part of the writer’s sense—are these words connecting with my readers—you need to get feedback and draw on the experience of others. As such, writing 3 million words and getting feedback helps develop your writer’s sense because the two complement one another. You do the thing and learn how your performance is working (or not).
Fair. Will a Tingling Writer’s Sense Help Me Sound Like an Expert?
Yes! Eventually, anyway.
The experts we listen to have knowledge that they can communicate effectively to others, which can often come across as someone being a “genius” or “effortlessly brilliant.” Outsiders can take one look at these types of people and conclude you must possess some sort of expansive, inherent talent to achieve “effortlessly brilliant” results.
Fear not, my dear writers.
While many experts do have innate gifts that enhance their know-how, becoming an expert is really about hard work and seeking out valuable experiences. Even the very talented still have to study, train, and fail, and by doing all those things, they develop a sense of what works and what doesn’t.
Having that sense makes future efforts more effective as time goes on, but like most skills, writing and conveying expertise are always works-in-progress. And that’s good news for those of us who weren’t born with an abundance of writing talent or didn’t have the opportunity to nurture that talent prior to the present moment.
With enough time and effort, we can create a reliable—if not perfect—writer’s sense, which can’t us help backflip our way out of danger, but that intuition can allow us to produce consistent, credible, and engaging writing.