So You Think You Can’t Write?


by Christopher Slater

I never have and never will claim to be an expert on writing. I have found an appreciation for it and perhaps a little bit of talent, but in general it is something that I have improved at only through sheer determination and continuous trial and error. Because of this, there is nothing that bothers me more than when I have someone tell me, without any attempt to the contrary, “I can’t write. I just can’t do it.” At that moment I start to understand how Bruce Banner feels right before he becomes the Hulk.

I don’t believe that everyone has a best-selling novel within them that only needs to find an outlet. I understand that plenty of people do not have the communication talents necessary to be a good writer. I also understand that not everyone loves the idea of writing.  No problems there either. What bothers me is the fact that some people have been conditioned to think that you not only have to have a world class talent in order to write, but that you shouldn’t put pen to paper if you do not have that talent from the very beginning. It may sound like I am being extreme in my example, but I have seen and heard this from many people.

Part of the cause of this is probably the quality of writing that is available to read right now. While the advent of the internet and independent- or self-publishing has creating some less that stellar reading choices, it has also allowed many people who wouldn’t have had the time or opportunity to go through traditional publishing to find an audience, and many of them show remarkable talent.

This seems to create a very high bar for those that enjoy reading but are afraid to try writing. They fear that they won’t measure up on their first attempt. If you are one of those individuals, let me let you in on something important: you won’t measure up on your first attempt! That’s what makes it a first attempt. It’s like a rough draft. It will need revision, growth, maturing, and change before it reaches the caliber of what you read. It may never reach that caliber. However, it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy it or that you can’t bring some entertainment to others that will read it.

The other impediment seems to be a fear of doing something new and failing. I knew a young man that tried following some writing prompts and did poorly on his first couple of attempts. He complained about how he just “can’t write.” Then I showed him a picture of a volcanic eruption from the news and told him to write a scene with that as the setting and to describe the setting with as much detail as he could.

The work that he showed me was remarkable. It appealed to all of the senses and fired the imagination. He far surpassed me in the detail that he used. If I hadn’t kept pushing him to get past his initial failures, he would still be telling everyone that he couldn’t write.

So you think that you can’t write? You might be correct. That ability may not be within you. However, imagine what you could be denying yourself and others by rejecting the possibility out of hand. You have nothing to lose, and the possibility of limitless worlds to gain.




Guest post contributed by Christopher Slater. Christopher is a Middle School History teacher in Tennessee. He’s also a husband, father, and author.

18 thoughts on “So You Think You Can’t Write?

  1. Awesome post, I would add that if someone thinks they can’t write and that stops them from writing then it’s a self fulfilling prophecy. If you don’t write you won’t and if you don’t keep trying you never get better. Reblogged at kimodenofiniquity

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great post 🙂 I mostly feel this way when I edit what I write. That way, I can dwell on all the things I SHOULD have done rather than what good choices I actually made. But you’re absolutely right- there’s no way to get better than moving forward and practicing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is the same case with math. Anyone can do math if they just put in the practice. Some, especially my literary peers, just say “I can’t.”

    I took math all the way to grade twelve and then took calculus and physics. I lost interest after high school, but my problem solving abilities even in everyday life have improved immensely.

    Good post, keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, but did you keep up with your practices? I didn’t and as a result I got progressively worse and then nearly failed calculus. I’m certain I would have done very well if I put in the effort and practiced.


      2. I believe that while inclinations and preferences exist, anyone can become good at anything. Humans are known for their adaptiveness, and I don’t think that such things somehow fall outside of these boundaries.

        However, I’m aware that I’m a bit odd, and that I’ve always been something of a jack of all trades. Still, it’s fact that anyone can learn maths if they put in the time, and maybe also have a good teacher. The answers are in the back of the book, after all.


  4. I love this post. I would add something about reading certain authors.

    If you ever read books from certain authors and find one that piques your interest, that one maybe keep reading. Sometimes the way your favorite author uses words can inspire your writing aspirations and ideas. The suspense or imagery they use can make you think, “I want to do that!” Thus reading your favorite author(s) can be the birthplace for your pen to start hitting the paper.

    At first, someone can be nervous about his/her first attempt. Don’t be too afraid though. Don’t let fear paralyze. Possibly even the greats felt the same on the first time.


  5. I’m reminded of David Owen’s advice: “In order to become even sort of good at it, you have to be willing to be bad at it for a long time.” Writing is like learning to play an instrument. Anyone can learn, but it takes years of dedication and practice to be good.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As you point out (and as I have said myself many times), people CAN write! They may not be stellar at it, and we all know first drafts are always garbage. I cannot tell you how many of my students are convinced they “can’t write.” Well, they can. All it takes is (surprise, surprise!) persistence, practice, gentle coaching, and the willingness to just jump in.

    I’ll never be great at math; algebra will remain a mystery, and I don’t think I’ll ever get my checkbook balanced to the penny. However, I can calculate percentages, square feet, and other daily math tasks. I can be mathematically functional just as others can be writing functional.

    How can we know that we can’t write (or do math) if we don’t try?

    Thanks for helping debunk the “can’t write” myth (and letting me vent 😏).


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