Thursday, August 20, 2015

Keep Learning

I'm an arrogant SOB.  It's okay - I can admit that there are times my conceit rages out of control.  And you know what?  I don't think that's always a bad thing.  I think it takes a bit of an ego to believe you can tell a great story that lots of people will enjoy, just as it takes a bit of ego to think you can play professional basketball or perform brain surgery.  Conceit stems from a belief in yourself, and a belief in yourself is a vital component of success in any field.

However, one must keep conceit in context by never letting it keep you from getting better.  If left to its own devices, conceit can keep you from listening to others and learning better ways to apply the craft.

I've subscribed to a number of writing websites.  If you've ever subscribed to them, then you know that they always seem to be putting out one article or another telling you how to be a better writer.  Do your potential success a favor and read those articles.  Then go to a writers' convention and listen to the panelists.  For that matter, listen to other writers who are just in the audience.

To be sure, you're going to have to sift through a lot of bullshit.  I think I'm a better writer than a lot of people, and I find much of what is said to be either self-obvious or just plain stupid.  I know how this sounds, but haven't most of us at least thought like that at some point?  Maybe it's that most of us won't admit to it.  That doesn't mean that there aren't kernels of inspiration and truth you can take.

Some of what I read when I see an article like "8 Things Every Successful Writer Does" or "The Key To A Great Opening Chapter" makes me roll my eyes.  Some of it is beginner stuff or things that should be apparent to anyone who has ever taken writing seriously.  However, that doesn't mean that I haven't nodded my head sometimes and said, "Hey, that's a great point.  I need to start using that."

As soon as you think you've learned all you ever can from writing, you're destined to fail.  Even seasoned writers like Stephen King and JK Rowling keep learning so they can write a better book next time.  No one becomes a master overnight, and only by learning what's out there, as well as what's important enough to become part of your playbook, can you get further along that path.

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