The Prolific Writer Pub

Definition of a Hack

Comedians will often call other comics: hacks. A hack comedian isn’t someone who lacks talent necessarily. Rather, a hack comic is someone who plays to the audience.

Now on the surface that doesn’t sound like a cardinal sin. Don’t writer’s play to the audience? Trying to write stories people will read and enjoy?

Yes, and no.

Finding an audience for your work doesn’t mean you have to sell out.

Hacks in the comedy world, or writing arena, are all about finding the lowest common denominator to get a laugh, or sell a book. They’re not hacky because they lack talent. Many of these men and woman are gifted.

Hacks are hacks because they don’t create work from the heart.

Steven Pressfield in his book, The War of Art, said Robert McKee defines a hack:

“… as someone who second-guesses his audience. When he sits down to work he doesn’t ask what’s in his heart. He asks what does the audience want?” (page 152)

That’s the key difference between the hack and non-hacks in our ranks. What do they think about when they get into their writing space?

More common features of a hack

1. Hacks write articles and books that are essentially click-bait, low hanging fruit, and not designed for gaining your 1000 True Fans.

2. Hacks research what’s hot in a market and try to emulate that authors success. Never truly writing something that moves their own soul. Something said in a style and perspective all their own.

Is Writing Ability a Gift?

Somewhere around junior high the great divide happens. We say it to our kid’s, and teachers say it to their students:

Molly is the Artist, and Billy is the Math-Guy.

Jack is creative and an artist type, and Ryan isn’t.

Sorry, Billy. Molly can go paint, and Billy, well, go do math problems.

I heard it. Maybe you did too.

A common scenario which raises the age old question of nature versus nurture, God given talent, and mere grit and will power.

Is writing ability a gift from God, or something else?

Common sense would say: yes, some people are endowed from the gods above with artistic ability, and some aren’t. It is what it is, Billy.

But I’ve seen many writers and creatives have their dreams crushed because of this line of thinking. A well-meaning teacher or loved one who says: sorry kid, drawing or writing isn’t your thing. Maybe accounting?

Not a month goes by on my podcast when someone doesn’t say: I wish I would’ve written my book sooner.

Somewhere along the line their hopes and dreams of writing dashed because someone told them their ability to write, well, was not their gift.

Is it true? Is our ability to write and create dependent on the gifts and talents given to us at birth?

Yes, and no.

Let’s Diagnose Your Writer’s Block

Okay, let’s be blunt. I don’t believe in Writer’s Block.

It’s a myth that came into existence in the 40s. A way to elevate writers into magical creatures who must suffer for their art. It’s only through mental anguish before the artist can truly make something of value.

I politely disagree.

Mechanics don’t get Mechanic’s Block, or teachers Teacher’s Block, or moms Parenting Block.

You show up, do the work, and push through.

But let’s say you’ve visited WebMD and self-diagnosed yourself with WB. You’re experiencing sweating, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, and an aversion to social interaction because of this so-called WB.

For whatever reason the words just don’t seem to fall from the brain, to the fingers, and onto the page. It feels like pushing a snowball up a hill, in the middle of winter, in your shorts, while wearing ankle weights. No ideas, no passion, nothing, nada, an empty void of writer hell.

It happens, sort of.

So what do we do?