In today’s Journal
* Topic: Learning the Craft Revisited
* Of Interest
See “Tami Hoag Giveaway – Two Free Registrations to the 2022 Writers’ Police Academy!” at https://leelofland.com/tami-hoag-giveaway-two-free-registrations-to-the-2022-writers-police-academy/.
I’m not entering the drawing. If you do, good luck. If you win, please let them know you heard about the drawing through the Journal. (grin)
Topic: Learning the Craft Revisited
Matt’s keeping me in topics for the Journal. (grin) As a followup to the email that became “On Learning the Craft” in yesterday’s Journal, he asked two more questions. I thought I should share those with you. I’ve also shared my much-expanded responses:
“Why do you think practicing is the one thing writers least want to do?”
First, it isn’t that they don’t want to practice. It’s that they’re frightened of various bogeymen. The main fear is rejection (= failure), including the fear that rejection will mean the end of their “career” as a writer.
Ahem. Note that most writers who fear this don’t have a career. By the time they’ve written enough to have a career, they understand this is silly.
These writers believe if they submit something that isn’t “perfect” to a magazine, the editor will blackball them. If they self-publish it, they belielve readers will hate it and never buy from them again. Somehow, they either never learn or conveniently forget that what’s perfect for one reader (for example, you or a member of your critique group) is seriously flawed for another, meaning anyone who isn’t you or a different member of your critique group.
Instead of being taught to practice (write the best you can, submit or publish, and write the next story), they’re taught to hover over one work, ostensibly to strive for perfection.
First they revise (a function of the critical-mind), even to the minuscule point of replacing individual words and being sure to alternate sentence structures, etc. ad nauseam.
Then they invite others to critique their work, another critical-mind (CM) endeavor. Afterward they rewrite (CM), then maybe do an “editing pass” (CM) before a final revision (CM) or rewrite (CM) or polish (CM).
Absolutely none of that has anything At All to do with Story or storytelling. Nor does it have anything to do with the craft of writing. And the more you invoke the critical mind to second-guess your creative subconscious, the farther you’ll get from the authentic story your characters are living. [Perios, full stop, mic drop.]
And just as an aside, if that timid, fearful writer takes six months or a year to write and revise the story, garner critiques, then do one or more rewrites — a dedicated professional fiction writer who writes say three or four hours per day will have remarkably different results:
S/he will write six or ten or twelve or twenty new novels in that same time frame. And as a bonus, all of them will actually be the exciting, unpredictable, authentic story his or her characters are living.
Of coure, you’re the writer and every writer is different. So as always, the choice is yours.
Matt’s second question was, “How can one practice a technique while at the same time staying out of the story?”
Good question, but the answer to that one is easier and a little shorter.
First, remember that you aren’t practicing any particular technique. You’re practicing storytelling. But to include a new technique in your next story, first you have to absorb it.
As an example, do you need to “think” about whether to put a period at the end of a declarative sentence or how to spell commonly used words or how to compose a sentence? Of course not. But those things didn’t occur naturally to you. At some point you learned them. Then they seeped into your creative subconscious and now you apply them without thinking about them.
So to include a new technique, first, study the technique, preferably in a story. Think about it, turn it over and over in your mind, then go into the new story with the thought I’m going to apply [whatever new technique] in this one. Then comes the most important part: trust that you’ve learned it.
Once you trust that you’ve learned the technique to the best of your current skill level, you can forget about it and just write the story. The technique will come in through your subconscious when it’s necessary.
Trust is the most important trait for a fiction writer to possess, especially trust of one’s self. Self-confidence is neither cocky nor an impairment. It’s an enabling asset.
And it doesn’t mean you’ll always be perfect. It only means you’ll always write to the best of your ability for your skill level. It means you trust your characters to tell the story that they, not you, are actually living. And it means you will succeed.
Then there’s the Dark Side — The opposite of self-confidence, self-doubt is the certainty that you can’t do something on your own. That is the most disabling mental impairment I can think of for a writer. Self-doubt will stop you cold from doing all sorts of things, including writing fiction.
Yet unbelievably, self-doubt is prevalent and actively taught as a good thing! Many would-be and early-stage fiction writers have been flumoxed into believing they can’t do anything on their own. Even something as easy and fun as recording a story that THEIR characters are living in THEIR mind. Incredible.
There are two bottom lines here:
Everything that has to do with the creative subconscious and the actual craft of writing is positive and forward-looking.
Everything in writing that comes from the conscious, critical mind is negative and backward-looking.
Which would you rather do?
Talk with you again soon.
See “Flash Sale Ends Today!” at https://www.deanwesleysmith.com/flash-sale-ends-today/.
See “Capricious Actions That Cross the Line” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/capricious-actions-that-cross-the-line/. Not about writing but an interesting look at the Association of American Publishers and PG’s always-interesting take.
Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.