You Have to Work on Your Craft

The tortoise and the hare.If you’re a writer, you have to work on your craft. You have to learn the mechanics. You have to study language and dialogue. You have to read other people’s work – both the classics and the contemporaries. You have to develop what Dean Young calls a “critical sensibility” that guides how you read and write.

You must do those things. If you don’t, you’ll never improve. You might even be questioned if you really are a writer. You can say you’re a writer until you’re blue in the face (to use a cliche), but the proof is in the work, no matter how long it takes to complete that work. The time frame is unimportant. What is important is steadily working toward something, not being content with what is but striving for more.

If you don’t challenge yourself with your craft, you risk not only a lack of growth but also stagnation. You’ll plateau, but plateaus come to an end. What then? Will you tumble off the edge and break upon the rocks below or will you thrust yourself ever further into the unknown?

Not only that, if you aren’t growing, if you aren’t continually challenging yourself, you’re dying. Every time you choose to be content with your current level of ability is a step backwards. If you aren’t careful, you’ll eventually lose what ability you do have.

The trick with any talent is to use it. You can’t simply accept that you’re talented; that’s how the tortoise caught up to and surpassed the hare. No, to be a writer means that you do the hard work of the writer. You accept the responsibility that comes with the talent. You write and you read and you study and you write some more, and you do that again and again and again.

Image: Charlie Rapple (CC BY NC SA 2.0)


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