Thursday, October 8, 2020

Nothing Left to Learn

I was thinking of new topics a week or so back, and about the fact there’s not much I haven’t covered here. I mean, it’s been well over thirteen years now. There’s only so many times I can say “Try to make your characters relatable somehow.”

And that train of thought led me to, well... why are you still here? Why are you still reading this? Not just this post but I mean... the whole blog?

Yeah, over the past year or so, I’ve tried to be better about doing stuff here. Writing advice is still the majority of it, but lately I’m also trying to put up some related thoughts on publishing, marketing, movies, and well... the state of the hellworld we’ve all found ourselves living in.

But, yeah, in all fairness, a lot of the writing advice is stuff I’ve gone over once or thrice before. Which makes me ask, again... Why are you still reading this?

I mean, I love that you’re here. Seriously. It’s truly appreciated. But I’m asking about you in the larger, general sense. What are you still hoping to find here?

For a lot of our time as writers, professional or not, there’ll be people taking that journey with us. They can be teachers in school or professors at university. Maybe they’re other writers we know. Some might be at the same stage of their writing career as us. Others may be a bit behind. A bunch of them may be way ahead of us. Or they could’ve written a bunch of books (or blog posts) about writing and storytelling you really enjoyed.

And these folks have given you tips and suggestions. Maybe some rules to follow. A few guidelines. Maybe a bunch of examples. They’ve pointed out paths to follow and given you a gentle (or not so gentle) nudge in what they think might be the right direction for you.

Eventually, though—like with any active effort to learn—there’s going to come a point when the time and money I’m investing in all that reading and listening and learning is going to outweigh what I’m actually getting out of them. We call it diminishing returns. It’s the point when I’ve gotten ahead of the learning curve. When I’m getting less and less out of each book or class or blog post because, well... I already know I should try to make my characters relatable.

And this is when I need to move out of that safe, comfortable learning bubble and start doing real work. 

This is a big, scary step, because it’s essentially taking away my safety net of excuses. A lot of them anyway. Why didn’t I write today? Well, I’m not quite there yet. I signed up for a class. I’m waiting for feedback from my writer’s group.  I was reading a new book about how to structure novels. And there’s this other book coming out in a few weeks, and I don’t want to get started and then go back and redo things. Plus, let’s be honest... writing’s just the first step toward getting rejected, right?

If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time, you know the advice and tips here are mostly aimed at people who’ve got a solid grip on the bare basics and are ready to start taking a few more steps forward. But right there, that’s telling you this shouldn’t be your go-to place for years and years. If you’re doing things right, there’s going to be a point where the returns have diminished and these posts just aren’t worth your time.

And I’m cool with that. It happens. It should happen. Your writing should hit a point where you don’t need to be paying for classes or buying books or searching the web for the best way to include subtext. You should progress, improve, and just not need these things anymore. Over the years I’ve belonged to a ton of writing groups.  I took several classes in college. I’ve attended a few writing conferences. And I have bought soooooooooo many books on writing. I don’t regret doing these things, but it’s also been a while since I’ve done any of them.

(True fact—the last writing book I bought was Damn Fine Story by Chuck Wendig when we were both attending Phoenix Comics Fest. He laughed at the idea I was buying a copy, and he actually signed it “You don’t need this book, so I hope you enjoy it”)

(it is, for the record, a really fantastic book on storytelling, and even though it turned out I did know a lot of what he was saying, I really did enjoy how he said it and the examples he gave)

Look, I’m not saying any of us are ever going to be the end-all be-all authority on writing. Personally, I’d tell you to steer clear of anyone who claims to be. But that’s just because with any art—with anything at all—there’s always going to be more to learn. So if I’m waiting until I know it all before I start... it means I’m never going to start.

So stop worrying that you don’t know enough yet. Recognize that maybe it’s time to stop putting effort into learning how to write and shifting some of that effort into... y’know, writing. Give yourself permission to learn on the fly, to figure things out as you go, and to not look up every possible way to do something before you do it.

Next time—if you’re still here—I think it’s time we talked about the cheating problem.

Until then, go write.

No, seriously. Go write. What have I been talking about for the past ten minutes?

1 comment:

  1. "Give yourself permission to learn on the fly, to figure things out as you go, and to not look up every possible way to do something before you do it."
    That sentence right there is the reason I keep coming back. That little tidbit is something I need to remember in regards to writing AND quilting, LOL! And usually? If you tell me to go write, I generally do... Which I hate to admit to because it makes me feel a bit Pavlovian ☺
    I am an old person and a new writer. I arrived here after enjoying your books and having the idea of learning how to write a cohesive, non-wandering story. Not so easy when you live with a zig-zagging, A.D.D. brain. So, thanks for the last thirteen years, I have a lot to catch up on!

    ReplyDelete