What lessons can we mere mortal writers learn from these 6 literary geniuses?

Alpha writers are born from a force that must be reckoned with – a message that cannot and will not be stifled!”

They are the prolific writers of all time.

Dickens reads to his daughters

Charles Dickens reads to his daughters

The ones who not only produced reams of descriptive, often gut-wrenching manuscripts, but also delivered a relied-upon story line publishers and readers readily count on. Branded authors proven through time — alpha writers who have made a name for themselves that remains forever an influence on the hearts, minds and souls of everyone daring to read such literary classics.

Who are these literary geniuses capturing our imagination and intriguing us with timeless tales in every genre?

What traits do they share, allowing them to become so perfect at their craft? Are we (hidden) alpha writers, the elite of the elite, waiting to be unleashed upon our world? If so, how can we capitalize on our own literary genius, to unleash it on an unsuspecting audience?

Let’s look at six diverse, elite writers whose names are household words.

“Indeed, there is a common thread among these alpha writers…”

John Steinbeck

One need never walk the paths described in the works of John Steinbeck. He himself brings them to life, and the experience is mesmerizing. Readers often feel like they’ve entered another time and space, an era of history filled with challenges and joys alike.

Writings like Steinbeck’s unveil deep feelings, things ordinary people dare not say. They touch on the untouchable, explore beyond the boundaries and intrigue the human spirit, often filling it with a gentle hope for renewal.

Theodor Seuss Geisel

Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) is an historic figure and author of classic children’s literature we all know and love. Exposed to hardship early on, having lived through times of prohibition and world war, Ted trudged along in life, trying to tow-the-line and create the required livelihood to survive.

His talents spanned beyond the realms of children’s chants and poetry. His artwork accompanied descriptive, playful words. Together, they expressed morally sound messages, addressing concerns and issues of his era – topics reaching beyond any one time and space in history, as it turns out.

Geisel’s literary and artistic genius became destined for greatness, despite many setbacks, rejection, and trials along the way.

Ayn Rand

Russian-born writer Ayn Rand understood well the evils of her time. Her classic book Atlas Shrugged depicts the dangers of socialistic communism, and condemns the strong-hold of government-dominated society. Born to be a writer, Rand delved into classic literary works early on in life, having taught herself to read by the age of six.

Life’s experiences, however, were the cause of her indomitable spirit. She drafted fearful (non-politically correct) manuscripts, often rejected for the overall message expressed in their content. Rand was as much a philosopher trying to make an indelible mark on the world, as she was an alpha writer — one destined to imprint a message meant to shake the whole of society out of its complacency.

Edgar Allan Poe

Certainly Poe’s descriptive writing casts a shadow or two toward the monsters we all bury deep within our psyches.

Classic horror comes to mind: deep dark writing – yet his works contain a draw into the realm of mystery and intrigue. Alluring readers with a constant, energetic and sometimes violent pull, Poe digs into the human mind and spirit, sifting through cobwebs and weaving tales of internal temptation, complete with all its consequences.

Emily Dickinson

Soul searching … a quest to understand one’s purpose and reason for living, so as not to merely exist in an external world … observing life’s surroundings.

These are the thoughts expressed by Emily Dickinson throughout many of her poems. Change – an ever-changing world plagued with uncertainty. Emily Dickinson witnessed life as a young girl, growing up during the American Civil War. An avid gardener, her numerous poems illustrate nature to explore the human spirit, contemplate the magnificence of creation, and reveal the core of life.

Charles Dickens

Born in the early 1800s, Charles Dickens was a privileged soul; but he was destined to be plagued by life’s hardships due to his father’s reckless irresponsibility.

His writings are largely autobiographical – he wrote what he knew, expressing it through fictional works that explore history, challenge society and reveal the indifference of man. Dickens was on a mission to procure the betterment of society at large.

So, what can we learn from these 6 titans?

Indeed, there is a common thread among these alpha writers — tales of the human spirit, as it were, tested by the hardships of their times. Buried deep in reticent thought, bound by duty to bear witness to their times, distancing themselves – if only to hear the pains of their hearts a little more closely.

These alpha writers were messengers of their times, our times and future times.

They were not readily accepted with open arms.

Yet that couldn’t stop them from declaring the message so deeply imprinted in their souls. These alpha writers witnessed society – experiencing and feeling it with eyes that pierce the human spirit because they reveal its weakness, challenge its indifference, and overcome its obstacles.

The stamina, drive and eclectic personality required to sustain life as an alpha writer – a true literary genius — cannot be understated.

Despite the hardships, we can all be alpha writers if we truly want to. We must delve into the apparent insignificance of our times — documenting our worst fears, while facing and unleashing our greatest nightmares and demons.

It’s not a task one takes on easily.

In fact, it’s not a task one takes on at all. Alpha writers are born from a force that must be reckoned with – a message that cannot and will not be stifled!

Suffering rejection and alienation, becoming outcasts in a society – too oblivious and unusual to truly comprehend their place in history as literary geniuses of all time — alpha writers are destined to accomplish their mission. It is a mission compelled by their incessant need to explore, define and improve the human spirit: a mission hell-bent on denying the status quo and releasing the necessary fury to rectify the plight of all who suffer.

»photo credit: Smabs Sputzer

MJ JoachimM.J. Joachim has published more than 1000 online articles. Don’t miss her Writing Tips blogsite. M.J.’s interests and expertise range from Crocheting and gardening to marketing and brand management. Learn more about M.J. on our Contributors Page.

questionWhich of these authors inspire you to reach for greater heights? If you tried, could you be as compelling as Dickens? As whimsical as Dr. Seuss? As gritty as Steinbeck? Share your dreams of literary greatness in Comments below.


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  1. MJ, what a great article! Kudos to you. Steinbeck is my all-time favourite author, an inspiration, as is Dickens –who comes a close second. Excellence is the signpost of both of these authors–they were both observers of humanity. Alpha writers–definitely.
    Jim, you could not have chosen a more timely subject or better guest writer. Well done!

    • Jim Bessey says

      Seemed like a good way to continue our slide into the New Year, Raymond —

      To look back and reflect on those who can inspire us all with the works they left behind.

      • I could not agree more, Jim–the great writers clearly had a specific voice-and such a voice is difficult to develop, perhaps even more difficult to maintain. I wonder if this is one of the curious things we have to deal with in change of genre? Writers like these clearly had their voices unbelievably perfected. – I think studying their work can help us achieve that end. Look at your favourite western writer–you’re well on your way, bud!

  2. Jim Bessey says

    Dickens does it for me, MJ.

    My wife and I watched a modern version of “A Christmas Carol” over the holidays. Midway through I realized it was the perfect story, perfectly told. Might explain the incredible, timeless popularity of this tale, the endless reinterpretations.

    And I thought to myself, if I could write a story half as good, half as well, I’d still end up with a best-seller. Thanks for an inspiring post, MJ.

  3. Great post, MJ. I’m glad you added Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Dickinson. These are the two legendary American poets that have influenced my work in recent years, especially after I took to writing poetry seriously. However, Charles Dickens tops the list from this collection of Alpha Writers. I think the best that I like from his work are ‘The Tale of Two Cities’ and ‘Great Expectations’. You know when a writer has aced at his / her work; when you feel that lingering impression on your mind and heart years after you’ve read the story.

    And there’s no better way to ace at our work than by learning from the best. Timely post, MJ … especially since this is the year of the writer.

  4. I think that Ayn Rand gets my vote. I discovered her as a young adult and think that her writing captured me and pulled my focus towards issues from a viewpoint that was not prevalent in the adults around me. Great article Teresa and wonderful comparison of these great authors.

  5. Hi everyone. It’s so good to see everyone again. MJ this is a wonderful article on some of the best loved writers of all time. I don’t know which one I would choose as my favorite, but I think it has to be Charles Dickens. His book The Christmas Carol was one of the first books I read as a child and is still one of my favorite today. It’s kind of funny but., my daughter asked me to join hubpages and I just entered my first article a week before Christmas. It was about four classic Christmas Stories from around the world. Of course The Christmas Carol topped the list. http://petranewman.hubpages.com/hub/The-Best-Classic-Christmas-Books-to-read-with-your-Family
    I want to thank Jim and Raymond for inviting me here.
    I’ve been busy; started a website on aging and longevity, hubpages and still write for helium. I’m also trying to finish my children’s story I started years ago.
    Happy New Year to every one.

  6. You all are so encouraging! Thank you!
    I’m personally familiar with some of Steinbeck’s stomping grounds, and Dickens makes me feel like I’ve been to England a thousand times over…even though I’ve never been at all – add it to the bucket list 🙂
    Poe and Rand intrigue me. My mind wanders and who knows where my thoughts will end?
    Emily Dickinson and Dr. Seuss, they’re classics for all generations.
    Sure is great to see so many wonderful writers from the old gang again 🙂 Thanks to Jim for bringing us all together!

  7. Steinbeck is awesome. I love that these writers’ works never get ‘old’, ‘stale’, or ‘outdated.’ Well written MJ and I am happy to share the link on Facebook so more people will enjoy the read.

  8. Awesomeness! Not only are they among my all time favorites but the backstory of each nutshelled like that was just the shot of inspiration I needed today! Thank you so much – sharing now 🙂

  9. Tamara Narayan says

    Great picks. With kids, I’m quite familiar with Dr. Seuss, and having gone through school, some of the others have popped up on required reading lists. Today, I would most likely read Poe for pleasure, though I should probably give Atlas Shrugged a try. I think reading current popular fiction has spoiled me. I have a hard time getting through classics with their slower pace and attention to detail that is absent in most books today. So, among Today’s Popular/Best-Selling Authors, which ones do you think will still be read in a hundred years? Stephen King? James Patterson? Margaret Atwood? Stephanie Meyer? What will prevail–popular fiction or literary fiction?

  10. Excellent overview and right on M.J. I have been out of the loop lately with some family issues taking most of my time and energy. Not all bad though. 🙂

    I need to focus more on our best writers YES indeed the Alphas like J. Steinbeck and Ayn Rand in fact I might just add then to my kindle list..and catch up on them again.
    M.J. keep up your good work ….I always enjoy reading your words.

  11. What a terrific article. Such thoughtul insights into our beloved writers. I’m such a Dickens fan that I named my dog Charlie and cat Boz. I still wonder what he was planning with his last piece, Mystery of Edwin Drood. Though it’s become one of my favorite plays. Steinbeck has been a favorite of mine since I can remember. Have you read Chrilie and Me? Beautiful if you are an animal lover. Such a versatile writer. Ayn Rand has captivated me since I read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. Her viewpoints and group of thoghts surrounding her school of thought is…thoughtprovoking. I still get the shivers with Poe but Emily calms me right down. All “Alpha writers’ to be sure. Thank you, M.j., for such a beautiful piece.

  12. You guys are the best! Thank you for all of these lovely and encouraging comments! 🙂

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  14. I cried the first time I read “Oh, the Places You’ll Go”.
    None of the other authors ever made me cry, and a couple made me angry enough to quit reading.
    But–I think I was born weird.

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