Skills for Being a Great Writer (That Have Nothing to Do with Writing)

Emily Harris
Emily Harris
Head Writer & Editor at Inkless

Choose five people at random, sit them all down in a room, and ask them what makes a great writer “great.” 

Odds are, you’ll get five completely different answers. 

Some might argue that wordwork and craft take precedence. Others may pride writers who tell innovative, out-of-this-world stories. 

But a few more might say the true test of a writer is their ability to connect emotionally with a reader.

Want to know the truth? There really is no such thing as the “greatest” writer of all time. If your goal is to reach this title, it’s time to find a new one. 

Instead, challenge yourself to discover what makes you the best writer you can be. Everyone has different strengths, perspectives, and challenges. 

What matters most is your ability to use these universal ingredients to create a dish that’s all your own. So what do strong writers have on their shopping lists?

Be Curious


Curiosity kills the cat but feeds the writer. A natural desire to inquire and learn opens doors to new insight. 

The more you ask “why?” or “how?” the more you diversify your perspective. 

Be interested in what’s going on around you, whether in the world or the lives of others. Ask questions and think deeply about their answers. 

Be Empathetic


A significant part of a writer’s job is to connect with their audience. But you can’t do that if you’re unable to relate to or understand others. 

To be empathetic is not necessarily to be the kindest, warmest person in the world. But it does mean to listen. It means you must open yourself up to hearing different experiences and truly try to place yourself in them. 

In a way, empathy gives you a glance into what it’s like to be a reader. 

You have to understand how and when to draw readers in and connect with them, and there’s no better way to do that than to be on the other side.

Be Open to Vulnerability


Writing invites readers to step into your mind and world for a moment. Don’t shy away from this. Open the door wider. 

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable; after all, there is no growth in comfort. 

It’s scary to let others in and bare your soul. If it weren’t, everyone would do it. But within that fear lies a critical truth: we are all alike in more ways than not. 

If there’s a story you want to tell, write it. Consider it a success to put anything on the page; take the pressure off yourself to do it “right” and allow yourself to simply be. 

Be Observant


The best writers are often people-watchers. They’re interested in the mundane as much as the extraordinary. 

They know that something as basic as how a spoon swirls the milky foam in a hot cup of coffee comes with a feeling, context, and purpose. 

It’s not that deep? It absolutely is, always. Writing is all about familiarizing abstract and mysterious concepts but also adding allure and intrigue to what we already know. 

Give your surroundings the credit they’re due. Our vast, teeming society is full of stories just waiting to be brought to life. 




Be a Student of the World


The bulk of the work that goes into being a better writer has little to do with putting anything on the page. Instead, it comes from intentional exploration, learning, and new experiences.

Go out in the world, meet new people, and create unique memories. You certainly don’t need to scale Mt. Everest; even a trip to your local library can open your eyes to a part of the world you’ve never seen before.

It’s hard to create content that’s full of life when you haven’t experienced it. In the words of the wise Toni Morrison, “Your life is already artful – waiting, just waiting, for you to make it art.”

Be Imaginative


To tell a story, you need to commit to it. Push the boundaries you feel limit you and pursue even your most daring ideas. 

Think outside the box. Do what’s not been done before. Think deeply about what you want to write and imagine it said in many ways. Draw pictures and roleplay a bit – do what you can to immerse yourself in your writing headspace to invite creativity to join you. 

Be Honest


Be honest with your readers and yourself. 

Don’t write things you don’t believe in. Never cut corners, either. See challenges as opportunities to grow as a writer, not a sign to throw in the towel.

A sometimes uncomfortable part of honesty is knowing when it’s time to ask for help. 

Millions of creatives in the world face the same obstacles you do – use them. Learn from them. Recognize that there is no shame in saying, “I don’t know.”   


Final Thoughts


The skills that set you apart as a writer are personal to you. We encourage you to consider what you bring to the table and build from there. 

Remember that your value comes from your voice and stories, not necessarily how grammatically correct your sentences are.

At Inkless, we understand what it’s like to constantly strive for growth and inspiration. We are, first and foremost, dedicated, passionate storytellers. 

Our mission is to change writing on the web to match this commitment: content should be unique, engaging, and up to the challenge of shaping how readers think and act. 

Our team always meets every deadline and tailors service to fit your goals, whether big or small. 

If you have a passion for sharing ideas and changing the world, we want to work with you. Contact us today via LinkedIn, our website, or to start a conversation.