Sunday, December 4, 2011

Growing Pains: A Writer's Journey

I have been lucky to know some inherently gifted writers from various online communities. Authors whose words effortlessly flow across the page, evoking the strongest emotions within me; sometimes laughter or tears, but more often, jealousy.  There, I said it. I am jealous of their natural aptitude. I read their work and think, "Why can't I write like that?" Talent like theirs just does not live inside me. It takes a lot of drafts and several revisions for me to tap into the inner workings of a story and its characters. More than I would want you to know about, trust me. 

While on Skype yesterday with a dear writing friend, we started talking about the subtleties of talent and craft. Specifically, we were discussing why some writers of a certain caliber are reluctant to share insider knowledge of the industry or secrets of the trade, as if the prospect of a newbie hungry for information is their worst nightmare brought to vivid reality. As she put it succinctly, any writer can learn the craft (provided you are dedicated to the task), but no one can steal talent. Drat! It’s time for master plan two, since master plan one to siphon off her gift for storytelling won't work. 

For those of us who are not born but rather shaped into writers, what does this mean for us?  As if my lack of inherent skill isn't enough, my natural inclination toward impatience gets in my way.  An eager desperation to learn every lesson I will ever need in order to be a better writer right now! To write the best and cleanest prose on the first draft and sell one million copies at debut.  No, I’m not kidding – don’t pretend that you have the same dreams. I'm looking for one of those Easy buttons. Seriously, where’s the shortcut to becoming a genius at writing when you need one?

Today on Kindleboards, I offered some advice to a fellow writer who seemed worried that his or her pace of publication could not match that of other authors.  I suggested, “Work at your own pace.” So much of writing is about the pace – learning the delicate balance of tension and conflict, pacing ourselves so we don’t rush to the resolution. Perhaps it’s time to take my own advice and set a realistic pace.

Just like babies, who do not learn to walk before they crawl, each of us as writers have steps and stages we must take on our writers' journey. From basic competence and knowing the rules of the craft, we can grow to learn much more.  With each novel, we take on a new challenge and with luck and dedication, improve our skills. The task may seem difficult and is fraught with pitfalls (some of our own making), but isn’t our writing worth the experience? For my part, I hope the journey never ends. 


Michelle Gregory said...

we frail humans are always comparing ourselves to others, no matter what the situation. if only we could see the good in ourselves and not compare... one day i'd like to get to that point, but it will take a long time i think.

Sophie Perinot said...

My eldest daughter had the ferocious desire to be a skater. Ferocious desire but no natural athletic ability. She had to work ten times harder than my second daughter who had the talent but could not match daughter one’s burning ambition. Their coach used to say, “At some point, no matter how talented they are, a skater runs across a skill or trick that proves very difficult to acquire. At that moment the kids who have never had to struggle often give up, but the ones who always had to struggle push through. I think that applies in writing too. Or at least I sure hope it does :)

Lisa Yarde said...

Michelle, it will take me just as long. I say I won't and I know I shouldn't, but it's only natural.

Sophie, I don't doubt it. A little struggle teaches us lessons about the things that are worth having. We invest so much energy and sacrifice time we could spend doing something else because we hope it will be worthwhile.

Consuelo Saah Baehr said...

This is such a valuable post, Lisa.
Our unique struggle is so important. Out personal outcome is the only one we should want.

Anita Davison said...

As someone who has read your work, Lisa, In my opinion, you are ninety percent there. But then isn't that what reading is about, we all have differing opinions of an author's work. Just because someone is supremely talented, doesn't mean everyone will love what they write. Hang in there.

Kristina Emmons said...

Whoa, Lisa! I confess I felt a little jealousy myself when I read your books. Just like with anything it takes a lot of hard work, and your drive will get you where you want to be. Your ability is strong and you've accomplished A LOT already! I also can bet the people you read whose words seem to naturally flow have probably edited those words quite a bit.

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