If one were to search the internet for a specific article or subject, you would get millions of results of which many of them would be blogs, articles or papers related to your search query. In all, there would be a plethora of information available to you listed on hundreds of pages. The problem is, which link will take you to the information you require written by someone who is both knowledgable in the subject and has done further research to support his work or someone who just decided to sit down one day and write 2000 words on something they were vaguely familiar with. How do you tell? How can you tell?
There are hundreds and thousands of people out in interwebland who are adding more and more information every second of every day. Most of that information will be pointless drivel (don’t any of you start suggesting anything!!) and yet, within the millions of results there will be a gem of an article, intelligently written by someone who knows what they are talking about. The problem is finding that gem.
Everyone knows and loves Wikipedia. That is one site that relies on it’s users adding information on numerous topics. The criticism it gets, however, is that half (if not more) of the information is erroneous and misleading. Now, whether the authors were just ignorant but genuinely thought that they were contributing to the site or genuinely being ignorant and contributing to the criticism of the site is hard to ascertain. Is this a problem the result of so much freedom given to individuals? In the real world, an ‘individual’ could be a Phd professor or a complete fruitbat who genuinely believes Elvis is alive and prospering on Mars! The inability of the internet to actually process and evaluate the information being entered means that it is nearly impossible to know what is genuine information and what is gibberish randomly typed in by someone with the IQ of a crushed Pepsi can. Until you actually enter the site and then it’s too late!
The ability to write does not immediately give you the ability to write. I have been writing since I was a small child yet my ability to write intelligently, accurately and sometimes humorously about any given subject is open to debate. There are some subjects on which I have a great deal of information about either because I have experience of the subject or it is something that I have researched. There are many more subjects on which I know enough to get the title right and that’s about it. Yet, if I wanted to, I could write whatever I wanted and the search engine would never know the difference. Fortunately, I have a very limited imagination and wouldn’t know where to start on something as complex as fiction!
Writing, as I have mentioned before, is an art form. There are many unknowns out there who religiously write on their blogs and yet the articles they write (no offence meant here) are either pointless or, in some cases, complete gibberish. I’m not suggesting for a moment that these individuals are in any way incompetent but they are not writers. Their blogs may be more like diaries, somewhere where they can write what they feel and interact with like-minded individuals. Many would consider my blog just that. And many of them wouldn’t be wrong.
So what defines a good writer?
I would suggest that someone who writes periodical articles relating to whatever specialised subject they are experienced in does not necessarily make a good writer. Their information and observations may be accurate and insightful, making good research material for further study or consideration. Although they are technically writers, I doubt very much they would consider themselves as such. They write in order to disseminate the information they have garnered as a result of their research. They may find joy in writing about their latest discoveries, but for the majority of us who read such articles, they are often too dry, too scientific and too boring (unless, of course, it happens to be something you are personally interested in).
A good writer isn’t necessarily someone who writes copious numbers of articles either on the interweb or off. Someone who identifies a subject that is interesting (maybe just to them) and then writes a few hundred words about it off the top of their heads. The articles themselves may be interesting or even humorous but not necessarily well written. That’s not to say that this author doesn’t have a significant following who enjoy reading what they write but a good following does not a good writer make (nor does trying to word a sentence in a fashion that is doesn’t quite read right!).
So, what are or who are these elusive writers that fulfil all the requirements of being a good writer?
There are many great writers/authors. Notice I have now added authors as, I am led to believe, they do write too. One great writer was Christopher Hitchins, who unfortunately died this year. His unique style of writing was (in my opinion) inspiring, controversial and sometimes madness. His piece on Mother Teresa is something that has to be read to be believed. His biography, written while he was ill, Hitch-22 is a compelling insight into a mad genius. Many considered him an exceptional writer.
There are, of course, many more but far fewer than those that think they are good writers. In the end, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Certain scholars will consider some of their peers as excellent writers while the rest of us get brain-ache trying to understand the first sentence! Many of us have our own favourite authors (yes, apparently they do write) which is a personal choice, not necessarily the views of others.
There are groups of individuals who gather and then, after a fair bit of coffee, sticky cakes, lavish dinners and probably a good chunk of argument, nominate writers for prestigious awards. The people they nominate may not be known to many of us, but within certain sociological circles, they are considered masters of their craft. Some of us would debate that, but once these ‘experts’ have spoken, their word is gospel.
Or so they think.
Fortunately, most of us have our own views and opinions and are not about to let a group of conceited, over-paid under-achievers dictate who we choose to view as good writers. I am sure that within their peer group, those nominated may be considered good writers but I have personal experience of a supposedly good writer and how she didn’t care about anything except her image, even if it risked the lives of others. So, pulitzer winners will just have to accept my cynical view of them. As for the rest of them, well I don’t know enough to offer any criticism (not that it has stopped me in the past!).
At this stage I must offer my apologies. Throughout this article I was trying to ascertain what makes a good writer. I have no definitive answer. I don’t suppose there is a single answer. The fruit loops that add their dubious expertise to Wiki may be someone’s most cherished author or maybe it’s someone who is more mainstream and has been recognised for their writing. At the end of the day, only you, the individual can decided who is good and who isn’t. Your google search may give you ten million results but you get to choose the one you prefer.
Me. Well, I think I will stick to Garfield and just be grateful that there is some intelligent life on this planet!