“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
Tell the truth — aren’t there times when you compare yourself to other writers and feel that you are at the short end of the stick? Maybe they have better credentials than you. Or a bigger clips list. Maybe, unlike you, they have been published in major magazines or newspapers. They make more money than you. They sell more books than you. Their writing wins awards. In short (you think), they are better than you.
Well, maybe they are in some ways. Maybe they are better writers, or better marketers or have better publicists or write on more timely topics. But let’s face it. The world is full of people who are better than us: smarter, fitter, richer, sexier — whatever criteria you are using, there are probably those who are ahead of you and those who are behind. That’s a fact. But that isn’t what you should concern yourself with because the only yardstick you should be measuring yourself against is the yardstick of You: the writer you were yesterday, last week, last year, and the writer you want to be tomorrow, next month, a decade from now.
As Tom Blubaugh said in his interview, “We all started in the same place—a blank sheet of paper.” All writers begin with an absence of words and then fill that absence with what is inside their heads and their hearts. And because it comes from inside, each writer’s process and product is different and unique.
I wish I could write like Shirley Jackson, Mark Helprin or Ray Bradbury (to name three of my favorites). But I can’t. I can only write like me — the person I am today. I can’t even write like the person I will be tomorrow because I will (I hope) have improved my writing even just a little bit in the next 24 hours.
Writing is a learning process, an evolving process. And as nice (and financially important, admittedly) it is to focus on sales, our greatest goal should be on improving ourselves creatively, on learning new ways to express the knowledge and ideas we have, of finding better approaches for connecting with those whose stories and information we want to share.
My questions to you are:
- What do you want to learn in the next month about the art and craft of writing?
- What skill do you want to develop or technique do you want to improve?
- And what are going to do to achieve that goal?