How to Become a Great Writer (from a Professional Writer)

Dear Brian,
How would someone know if he or she is an excellent writer?

The term “excellent” is subjective and can be determined in several ways. They all start with writing something – once you’ve done that, getting it judged can be accomplished in several ways.

You can submit your written work to an English teacher or to a writing workshop. You can pitch it to publishers for publication, at which point it’ll be vetted through an editor if it’s excellent. You can self-publish it or post it online and see how much traffic it gains as well.

If you wrote something that connects with people, it’ll gain an audience. If you didn’t, it won’t.

Just understand that being an excellent writer in the real world involves simply being able to cater to the client you’re writing for. When you get paid as a writer, you’re paid for a project. Delivering that project on time is what makes an excellent writer.

All those authors, poets, and any other artists you see emulating the self-loathing and addictions of creatives like Hemmingway or Poe are simply wannabes. Not all alcoholics are Amy Winehouse, not all coke addicts are Chris Farley, etc. It takes actual work to be a great writer. Never forget that.

I didn’t consider myself a great writer on my first piece. I simply thought I was competent enough. I have a grasp of the English language, am comfortable with my grammar and syntax, and decided to give it a shot.

By my 10th article, I was a much better writer than I was on my first, and by my 100th article, I was a better writer than I was on my tenth.

Each time I write an article, I get a little better, even if every piece isn’t my best work. I don’t judge myself as a writer by any one individual piece of work I’ve written. I judge myself as a writer based on a combination of what project I’m currently working on and my past body of work.

That I’m able to dedicate a portion of my time to writing what I want for my own website in which I have complete creative control is a measure of success for me.

I’m also proud that I’ve been able to pay my bills and put food on my plate supporting myself entirely off my writing work.

I consider myself an excellent writer in that I never miss a deadline (and that I’m able to continue finding clients willing to give me writing projects so I have a deadline).

Typos often appear in my work, and I’m not always happy with the end result, but I don’t stress.When I hit a creative wall, I’m able to push through and keep on working, even when it’s frustrating.

I wouldn’t be surprised to bump into a writer who knows more than I do about literature or writing mechanics. Plenty are more successful than I am, and anyone could scan my website for a few hours and find a mistake.

But I’m still here and still writing – and for me, that’s excellent.

Brian Penny versability whistleblower artisticBrian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work appears in High Times, Huffington Post, Lifehack, Main Street, Fast Company, and Hardcore Droid.


Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: