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The Definition of a Hack

Some of my writing friends and I have been talking about what makes us hacks. After all, what writer hasn’t doubted herself at least once or twice in her writing career? I think Steven Pressfield sums it up beautifully below:

A hack, he [Robert McKee] says, is a writer who second-guesses his audience. When the hack sits down to work, he doesn’t ask himself what’s in his own heart. He asks what the market is looking for.

The hack condescends to his audience. He thinks he’s superior to them. The truth is, he’s scared to death of them or, more accurately, scared of being authentic in front of them, scared of writing what he really feels or believes, what he himself thinks is interesting. He’s afraid it won’t sell. So he tries to anticipate what the market (a telling word) wants, then gives it to them.

— from The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

Therefore, I told my writing friends that as long as we’re writing something that sings to us, makes us really believes in it and allows us to be authentic, then we’re OK. :)

6 comments to “The Definition of a Hack”

  1. May
    · August 1st, 2008 at 9:08 pm · Link

    If I could be a hack, I would be a hack.

    I just can’t write what I want to write on demand, which makes being a hack tough.

  2. Nadia Lee
    · August 2nd, 2008 at 10:22 am · Link

    “Write on demand”? LOL. I wish I can do that all the time, but no. I can usually write, but there are times when I have to smack myself to write.

    BTW — I don’t think it’s just writing on demand or if WoD has anything to do with being a hack. I think it’s more like chasing the market trends even when you don’t like the hot trends.

  3. May
    · August 3rd, 2008 at 2:56 am · Link

    That’s exactly what I’m saying. I would be chasing market trends if I could be a hack. Except historical romance of all flavours anyway. Too much boring research.

  4. Nadia Lee
    · August 3rd, 2008 at 9:41 am · Link

    If you think historical research is boring, you shouldn’t be writing historical anyway. LOL.

  5. May
    · August 5th, 2008 at 2:00 am · Link

    Yeah, but if I’m a hack, I’d be trying to write it anyway. LOL.

  6. Nadia Lee
    · August 5th, 2008 at 2:12 am · Link


    You know…you should just write pseudo-historicals!

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