After years of teaching composition and critical thinking, I’ve learned most students see themselves as “bad” writers. However, writing (all art forms, really) is more about showing up than perfection. So I’m not sure how “bad” applies to a writing practice. It’s like saying you’re a “bad” gymgoer.

That is to say, if you go to the gym every day, you’re hardly a “bad” gymgoer. You might not lift weights as heavy as the person next to you, or take the treadmill at the steepest angle, but you work out religiously. No one would describe such a dedicated practice as “bad.”

Yet we might not call our writing “good”—not if we are reserving that label for the pro weightlifter, for the well-versed or expert; but then, this shows us that “good” means “well-practiced,” rather than “opposite of bad.” So we can still see writers as more practiced than us, without undermining our own practice.

To put it another way, “good” is a level of expertise that anyone can reach, given enough time. A dichotomy of good vs. bad doesn’t exist, so much as a spectrum of writing skills, in favor of the writers with the most hours invested.

Since every writer can dedicate themselves to a daily practice, (or an every-other-day practice,) (or a weekly practice,) the myth of the “bad” writer is dispelled. The conversation should then focus on the writing muscle: how often do we work out our writing practice? What writing routines could strengthen our weaker areas? What writing routines will bolster strengths that are already there?

The more we practice, the more aware we become of the “good” writer that exists within all of us. Eventually, that “good” writer will fully emerge. From there, (and until then,) we need to continuously challenge the fear that we are an imposter, and that “bad” writing is even a thing.

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