Pamela Koehne-Drube

Written by

Pamela Koehne-Drube

15 January 2024


5 Ways That Humility Can Make You A Better Writer

a writer showing humility in nature - Photo by Ashlyn Ciara on Unsplash

Writing is tough. You’re putting your work out there for everyone to judge, and sometimes that’s hard to do. You’ll get comments on your writing that range from the positive to the downright hurtful, and it can be difficult not to take those critiques personally; however, if you stay humble, you can use this criticism as an opportunity for growth and improvement. Here are five reasons why humility makes you a better writer:

Humility keeps you open to criticism

The best way to improve your writing is by receiving criticism. It can be hard to hear, but it’s a great opportunity for growth. While a compliment can be great for an encouraging ego boost, someone taking the time to give your constructive criticism is far more valuable.

Encouragement and compliments are good, of course. They can be validating, and let you know you’re on the right track. But they will not always help you grow as a writer. Criticism, on the other hand, offers far more value because someone took the time out of their day—and probably spent some energy—to offer constructive feedback on what they thought could be improved.

In my experience, most people want your work to succeed and be enjoyed by others, so when someone takes the time and energy to give constructive criticism on how they think something could be improved it means they believe in what you’re doing!

Of course, not all criticism is helpful or valuable, so you need to have enough confidence to learn how to sort the wheat from the chaff, but you must also have enough humility to see that some criticism is certainly worthy of consideration. When someone believes in your work enough to offer constructive criticism, it means that they want you to succeed and reach your full potential as an artist.

Humility makes you teachable

Teachability is an important quality for a writer. It’s the willingness to learn from others and be open to changing your mind because you’re aware that you don’t know everything. You realise there are things you could be doing better, and that you don’t have all the answers.

Thinking they know everything there is to know about writing is something I’ve seen from a lot of new authors in my years as a ghostwriter and editor. It can be hard to “kill your darlings”, especially if you’ve put a lot of creative and emotional effort into your manuscript. But it’s impossible to become a great writer without being teachable.

Being teachable doesn’t just mean that you have to learn from others. It also means that you have to be able to learn and grow from your own mistakes. As you evolve as a writer, you’ll develop your craft, and be able to look back on your previous work and learn from your previous mistakes.

Humility is essential for learning. You’ll never grow as a creative writer if you think you already have all the answers.

Humility keeps you teachable - Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

Humility keeps you from becoming complacent

If you’re too busy patting yourself on the back, you’ll never grow as a writer or develop your craft. Instead of congratulating yourself for what you think is the pinnacle of your accomplishments, take a step back and look at your work with fresh eyes and see if there’s more you want to achieve.

There’s nothing wrong with revelling in a sense of achievement. You’re allowed to be happy about reaching your goals, whether that be hitting a target word count, reaching a set number of readers, or landing a book deal. And if that’s where you want to leave it, that’s ok too. But if your achievement is just the first step on your writing journey, then humility is the key to continuing your development as a writer.

After the glow of achievement has faded, you should be open to new ideas and not be afraid to try new things. No matter how much experience an author has under their belt, there are always going to be new ways and methods of writing for them to explore—and humility sets aside ego in order to make room for change within ourselves and our work as writers.

Humility will help you recontextualise your achievements as steps on your writing journey. Enjoy every success and every goal you reach. Then set yourself a new goal and target, letting yourself build on what you’ve learned from every achievement along the way.

Humility helps you identify your weaknesses

Humility is not the same as self-deprecation. It’s important to understand the difference because humility is a great way to learn and improve your work.

Being humble means you are aware of your weaknesses, but it doesn’t mean that you assume that you’re terrible at everything. Instead, use your knowledge of your weaknesses to identify what needs improvement in your work and then do something about it!

So how does this translate into writing? Humility helps you write better by encouraging honest critiques from both yourself and from other people who care about what you do. Self-critiquing can be hard because it’s too easy to fall into the trap of being self-critical. Accepting that you have ways in which you can improve is different to hating your work. This is why humility, rather than self-deprecation is key. It asks “what can I learn from this?” instead of simply saying “I’ll never be any good.”

Humility, rather than self-deprecation, also makes it easier to invite others into the process. If you just think your writing is bad, you’ll never be willing to share it. But if you think your writing deserves improvement you’ll be more likely to open yourself up to others for constructive criticisms.

You can improve your writing while still maintaining a sense of pride. Pride and humility don’t have to be polar opposites. You can be proud of your work while still maintaining a humble outlook.

The Anatomical Venus by Pamela Koehne-Drube for The Ghastling

Humility keeps you open to improving your work

When you’re humble, you’re willing to learn from others and from your own mistakes. You can be open to criticism and advice because humility allows you to view them as opportunities for growth.

By being humble, you are more likely to accept feedback on your writing (whether it’s praise or criticism) because you realise that this information is valuable in helping improve what you do. If someone gives me a manuscript with corrections on it and tells me why they made those changes, I’m going to listen carefully because they’re telling me something about myself as a writer—something that I don’t already know.

I recently published a short story in literary horror magazine, The Ghastling. I worked on it for almost three years going through dozens of revisions, cutting, adding, and improving until I had a story that I was proud of. When I submitted it to the editors, they came back with feedback, pointing out parts of the story that needed changes before they’d be willing to publish.

My first, human instinct was to be upset because I’d thought I’d perfected the story through literally years of hard work. But I pushed that feeling down, exercised humility, and took that criticism in the spirit that it was mean; advice on how my story could be improved.

I made every change they requested, and the final story was much better for it. By being open to an outside perspective, even if it meant some major narrative changes, it made my story into something I couldn’t ever have imagined. It was much better, more powerful, and packed a much more emotional punch than my original submission. My ability to exercise humility allowed my work to shine brighter than ever.

This is one of the reasons why humility leads directly to better writing: by being humble and open, we are more likely to take advantage of all kinds of feedback—even negative ones!

If you want to become a better writer, humility is an essential part of the process. It keeps you open to criticism and new ideas, and it allows you to learn from your mistakes. Humility can also help you identify areas where your work needs improvement so that it will be more effective for your readership. In short, humility is a great quality that every writer should try to adopt!