Writing Quote of the Day: So You Think You’re Smart


From Jack Bickham, The 38 Most-Common Writing Mistakes, chapter 2, Don’t Consider Yourself Too Smart:

• Do you consider yourself more intelligent than most of the stories and novels you read?

• Do you believe contemporary fiction is sort of beneath you in terms of intellectual attainment?

• Do you figure your readers—when you get them—will be dumb compared to you?

• Do you revel in Proust, adore T. S. Eliot, think there has never been a really great American novelist, and sneer at everything in the popular magazines and the best-sellers lists?

If so, I congratulate you on your self-satisfaction, but warn you that such smug condescension will be the death of you as a writer; at best you’ll one day publish obscure little short stories in giveaway magazines for other small-college English teachers like yourself; at worst, on your death bed, you’ll whisper to your sister the location of your hidden treasure trove of unpublished fiction, and breathe your last in the vain hope that future generations will revere you like they now do Emily Dickinson.

Wouldn’t it be a lot better not to consider yourself so smart? To try to figure out what contemporary readers like—then to work to give them the best stories of that type they ever read?


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