Develop First And Write Seriously Later
Of course, this can only apply to someone if they have and want to dedicate the time to do this, but I’m glad I had the luxury to just hole up monk-style, explore my style, try new things, and work on improvement.
In college, I was so hard-wired on finishing my novel to get it published to the point where my writing was all over the place, but I missed out on so much time developing as a writer. And my novel missed time on developing too!
These days I think of writing like cooking: if you rush, you ruin the dish. Parts will be runny or taste undercooked. Or worse, make someone sick!
No one wants undercooked food, but ironically we don’t think the same way when we write. If our story world skills or a character making skills are undercooked, it can completely fly over our head.
Of course we don’t mean to do this, but I’m willing to bet you that most writers out there do not practice writing the way a professional athlete practices for sports. But baffling enough, some still expect that they’ll put out the same work quality!
Sure you could argue that they’re “not the same”. Of course they aren’t. But playing a sport is a developed skill. Writing well is a developed skill. Skills get better with practice regardless of what it is.
But more importantly, because I did all this upfront, I’m not scrambling to “find a style” or to figure out what my writing is, or figure out how to portray or describe something. The heavy lifting is already out of the way so to speak. And this actually takes a huuuuge load of my work.
Though this is something that I do wish I paid attention to much sooner.
Do Away With The Idea Of Taking Every Shortcut
You might be thinking I’m mad for this one, but hear me out.
In my school years I used to always be so puzzled on why teachers would always teach the longhand version of things and then teach us the shortcut much later when the shortcut could’ve saved us so much time. And recently I finally understand why.
You see…a lot of shortcuts would be useless if you didn’t understand where they come from. If you’re skeptical, let me try to explain.
Remember in school when you had to learn your basic math? You know…adding, subtracting, and then you get to multiplication and division, etc.
Multiplication and division are pretty much just addition and subtraction on steroids if you think about it. But can you imagine if you were never taught how to add and just taught how to multiply?
You’d have a much harder understanding without that foundation. And even worse, you’d have some huuuuuuuge gaps in your understanding.
And this is what bothers me about products and people that try to sell you on fast ways to do things that take time. I’ve found that all the shortcuts in the world will not save ignorance and poor skill. Sometimes it can hide it, but you’re not going to fool anyone who actually knows their stuff.
Now, I try to always dig into the root knowledge of a shortcut to understand it completely. Or in the case of writing, I just make my own shortcuts so that I know where it all comes from.
And the funny thing is, when you do understand something fully, the shortcuts just come. The brain is good at figuring out ways to do something faster. It’s always trying to find ways to do less work. And when you make your own shortcuts, it strengthens your understanding too!
This is definitely a big one that I wish I knew and that I wish was more emphasized in our “quick and easy” culture.
To Not Rely On Teachers Or Institutions To Be Responsible For My Education Especially In Writing
Another big one.
I remember once watching a video once where a guy was talking and there was one sentence that impacted me a lot. It went like this.
“Don’t let school get in the way of your education.”
And from then on I realized that going to school and actually getting a real education are nothing alike. Sometimes they coincide.
And that I find is a very scary thing at times.
As you all know from last week’s post, I have mixed feelings about writing classes. Those mixed feelings are because of this. I made the mistake of thinking that school would make my writing better or “fix me”. I also made the bigger mistake of thinking that the school was responsible for making me a good writer and to an extent, that books should make me into a good writer.
If I could punch my past self, I would because that is wrong-o with a capital WRONG.
Don’t get me wrong, teachers and professors should teach you things because that’s what they’re paid for. And no teacher should ever get away with false information or flat out incompetence for what they teach.
But don’t pin on your universe on a teacher or a school or a book teaching you anything. You are responsible for what you learn and absorb.
And the other thing is, if you rely on everything a teacher says, you can only be as good as their level. If you learn all their tricks, you plateau and stagnate. If they don’t grow, then you don’t grow.
But thankfully, I was never the type of person to be okay with the idea that my growth is in any hands but my own.This is why I learn from every source possible. I learn from people, life, meditation, and now I actually learn from my drawing.
For me, it’s really a great place to be because there aren’t any lesson plans, or fancy standardized tests, or checklists, or shiny pedigrees to distract me from the real helpful information.
To Push Until I Get Frustrated With Something
This is kind of goes hand in hand with the taking shortcuts thing.
If you come to a problem and you don’t try to solve it yourself or work with it, just getting the solution handed to you is not going to help. It’s like taking a math test. You might know the answer, but if your teacher specifies for you to show the work, the answer is useless.
But also, sometimes we don’t realize how close we are to the answer we need! It’s a lot more fulfilling to come up with it yourself.
At first when I wrote and I came to a problem, initially my first impulse would be to ask someone what they thought. But I actually grew to not like this method as often times I have to explain a situation to someone and if they misunderstand, I have to clarify.
And I’d often run into people not paying attention, or barely engaging in the conversation, or worst cutting me off and not getting things done at all. It often made me feel like the people I were talking to didn’t actually care about helping me. And me having social anxiety made things hella worse.
And this actually all lead to the feeling that asking for outside help was more tedious than it was worth. Of course, I know there is still a time and place for it, but now I am much more reserved and much more selective about asking.
But what made this official was a Winnie the Pooh inspired meditation on Calm on the topic Wu Wei, which is basically the idea of allowing things to happen the way they should.
One of my favorite parts is when Tamara Levitt says, “When you work with Wu Wei you put the round peg into the the round hole and the square peg into the square hole. No stress. No struggle.”
This allowed me to go from asking for help to constantly asking myself, “Will this fix itself if I just relax and let it be?”
And since I started this approach, the answer has so far always been yes. It made me actually realize that a lot of issues in writing are self-imposed and caused by expectations that the story is supposed to turn out a certain way.
But more importantly because I work out the problems myself until I can’t go any farther, I now have a better idea understanding of what to do and why something will work and why something won’t work. .
And this actually makes writing feel more fulfilling to me.
Hmm… I’m actually not sure how much more of this there will actually be. But if there is really more, it will just be there I suppose.
So until next time…
Get back in that water. 😉