there are zillions of pieces of advice out there on how to write, but the most logical ones boil down to two points.
(1) put your butt in the chair and write.
(2) in order to get better at writing, you have to WRITE.
sure, reading and living a full life are also keys to becoming a better writer (and a better human), but the practicality of practicing writing is too true to ignore, as @fakeeditor (#2) so helpfully explains.
I’m not saying that reading isn’t helpful. I’m saying that you learn to write by writing, and you learn to cook by cooking. #FE2
— FakeEditor (@FakeEditor) October 5, 2011
i thought i’d been doing that. i have one completed manuscript under my belt not to mention an MFA degree, and yet, i kept coming up with doubt about the state of my current (finished but unedited) WIP. i wondered why my writing wasn’t getting better. i thought taking some time away from it would help. i thought diving in and doing more research would help. i thought reading it over and over would help. i thought doing some character interviews would help.
in a fit of distraction, i started to peruse my old blog postings because i couldn’t remember when i had changed from diaryland.com to wordpress.com. that switch, from casual musings to carefully thought out postings, marked the beginning of my attempts to become a writer and i was curious what that actual date was. (7.21.09 for inquiring minds.) it took longer than i anticipated to find the beginning and i couldn’t help but read a bunch of the posts as i scrolled my way through. after reading through some highly embarrassing and super revealing and poorly crafted posts, i realized something.
i HAVE made progress. it’s just not the progress i was expecting.
the progress i’ve made has been in the form of emails and blogs because that’s what i’ve been doing daily for years now. sure, it may have been a thing necessitated through work or a premature attempt at building a brand, but it’s been the most consistent form of writing that i’ve been practicing and THAT’S why those types of words come more easily to me.
now hold up, i’m not saying when i open an email or fresh post, the right words march out and lay down in the proper formation, but it’s much easier to twist those words into the desired shape whereas the words in my novel look a bit more like this:
so the point of this was not to direct you to my most remedial writings, but as a note to myself to lighten up in the areas of my manuscripts because i’m still new to the game and my talent still needs time to be cultivated.
now, how to work on being more patient?
how do YOU work at getting better at what you do — whether it’s a hobby, a job, or a career?
10 thoughts on “progress report”
Isn’t it the best when you realize you’re doing better than you thought you were? I love that feeling! Yay for progress!
This post reminds me of a Sugar quote, from Tiny Beautiful Things: “The useless days will add up to something.” I think what Sugar is saying is that there are no useless days, even though it might seem that way sometimes. It ALL adds up to something! The blogs, the emails — it’s still writing, it’s still practice, and you’re learning, and you ARE getting better.
Go, writer, go!
P.S. Why do all my comments go the “This reminds me of…” route? :)
your brain works in mysterious ways.
also, YAY SUGAR! anything that reminds you (me, us, anyone) of sugar is a good thing. and thanks for passing along that quote. it’s oh so very valid and something i need to remind myself of more.
You sound like me – “I want to be patient – right now!”. I have found that when I have wished for patience, life occurs which requires patience. So we need to be careful what we wish for. love, Grandpa
in almost all areas of life, i’m a patient person, but the exception always seems to be in areas of self-improvement, which could relate to writing or sports. i figure one day of practice should be enough! (just kidding, i know it’s not. but would someone let my brain know this?)
I agree with @FakeEditor — to get better at something, you have do it. A lot. And then some more.
I also agree with Adriana (and Sugar) — there are no useless days. Especially for a writer, because, really, isn’t it ALL research in some form or another?
that’s a lot of agreement in that comment right there, but you know what? i agree with you (and them) too!
You ask how we get better at our jobs/writing. I subscribe to the New Yorker so that I am always reading stories that are better than mine. So that I get ideas about how to improve my reporting. So that I read about people (mainly right wing nut jobs) and things that piss me off. Hopefully, by being angry, I will actually try to do something about it.
Now there’s an interesting thought: read until you feel dumb and are mad. (I know that’s way oversimplifying.) You make some wise points my friend. I think this is why we are friends. Your big brain.
I have to admit that I am of the ‘reading makes you a better writer’ peeps. especially beta reading. there’s something about dissecting other people’s work that opens your eyes to your own faults and flaws. that said, i find that my best wips have come about after marathon reading sessions in which i’ve lost myself in a particular genre. (this is going to sound weird, but if i’ve just come off a comedic/light fluffy beachy read binge, i end up writing something dark-er than the norm. conversely, if i’ve just read a half-dozen books about malevolent spirits, i find my characters mostly end up as quirky odd-ball types who make me smile)
i’ve been reading a lot of “soft fiction” (you know, the kind where no one dies and/or has terribly traumatic experiences) so it makes sense that i ended up abandoning my gay boy love story/mystery for a dark sci-fi/fantasy about aliens.
this is my life.
now THAT is interesting and actually makes a lot of sense. you immerse yourself in a particular genre and then come up breathing fiction of the opposite persuasion.
maybe this means i need to read scary books so i will then be inspired to write light, fluffy ones OR, gulp, perhaps i should write something creepy and scary. (it’s not weird that i gave myself goosebumps just thinking about writing something scary, is it?)