Good. You’re in the “write” place. Ba-dum. Tssss.
Okay, I’ll stop.
But you’re not the first or the last to feel like your writing skills are jumping from good to bad to somewhat tolerable. Even I’ve had it and rest assured, it’s nothing to panic about.
First, the improvement thing… the first instance I noticed found this happening was after reading something amazing, usually a writer whose style I really clicked with. After being exposed to it, my writing was immediately a bit different than usual.
But this improvement was very unpredictable, short-lived, and very frustrating.
The next instance of this happening was in creative writing classes where there was a lot of reading and critiquing going on every session. So naturally there was improvement everywhere, but I still couldn’t put a finger on what about my writing was changing.
Critique comments helped, sure. Reading and discussions helped. The terms list was nice. But once the class ended I found myself slinking back to square one again and more frustrated than ever.
Why does this happen?
1. Just Because You Have Learned And Understand A Writing Technique Mentally Doesn’t Mean You Can Perform It Consistently On Paper
This kind of whacked me in the face last year when I was interested in how to learn things more efficiently. You know that old adage about remembering 10% of what we read, 20 percent of what we hear, and 80% of what we personally experience?
That’s what’s kicking in here.
You learn a technique, it fills you with excitement, so you twirl your pen and think, “I can do that easily.” So then you go to your writing cave go to your WIP to try it, and ka-put.
Or maybe you do pull it off, and then you go to sleep and you try it again further down in your draft and you find that you can’t do it as well as you used to.
Improving in writing really does take consistent, repetitive practice, guys. But we writers can be super resistant to this idea. We hunker down in our chairs, bring our coffee and tea cups closer, and say, “Practicing on the side is a waste of time. I’ve got writing to do,” or “I’ll just practice as I work on my draft,” or “Why do it if I won’t use it?”
The former I can understand where people are coming from. You’ve got deadlines, family, jobs. It’s a miracle you can sit down to write normally, let alone make extra time for practice.
But when you write your draft, you’re trying to do everything at once writing setting, create engaging characters, make sizzling dialogue, write battles about sumo grandmas, save the cat…
And then trying to cram a new technique in there on top of it? It really scatters your focus. I really don’t recommend it unless you’ve got a tight deadline to make. Even then, it would probably be better not to do that if your publisher is wolfing down on you.
Now as for reason number 2…
2.As You Read More Books Your Reading/Editing Eye Improves But Your Writing Ear Doesn’t Develop At The Same Rate
I can’t stress this enough. Reading is essential to improving in writing, but it isn’t a substitute for actually writing.
You can be the most well-read book reader in your circle, know all the classics, quote Hamlet to your friends with a smirk on your lips, write a whole pretty thesis on the theme of Gone With The Wind, and still be terrible at writing creatively because they are just two waaaaay different skills.
But as a result, you can spot more mistakes in your writing and therefore more likely perceive it as worse when really you haven’t changed much.
So to be blunt, you are not worse. You just understand more. And your writing skills haven’t caught up yet.
But they will with more writing. 😉
If you’re curious, this isn’t something that’s limited to just writing. It happens in drawing too.
But it’s getting late over here on my end, I’m going to get out of dodge. Until next post!