I have a board on Pinterest for Writing stuff. It is fairly empty, because I don’t find a whole lot of pictures that really convey good writing advice. Maybe I am not looking in the right places though, because the pin above is one of the greatest pieces of advice I have ever seen.
This gets exactly at my problem with fiction writing for sure. I write stuff, I re-read it, maybe I even do some editing and re-read again, and then I begin to despair. My stuff is so bad! Objectively, I know it isn’t totally terrible, but it certainly isn’t good. I also know that continuing to work and practice and learn the craft is the only way to get any better, but it is hard to keep that in mind when I am feeling that despair. It begins to feel like the time and effort is pointless.
The crazy thing is, I am not like this with other things. When I started playing racquetball, I was terrible. I am significantly better now, but since I was so terrible to begin with, I am still pretty bad at it. This does not diminish my enjoyment of the game in any way. I am getting exercise and learning how to do better, it is a really fun game, and that is enough.
In fact, I make it a practice to learn new things often, in part just to demonstrate this concept to my kids (and incidentally to myself). I want my kids to see me doing something I am no good at and then see me keep working on it until I get better. Kids sometimes think that things should be easy when they see their parents and other adults doing things relatively easily all the time. They weren’t around when we were making mistakes and learning, so they don’t realize how much work went into those accomplishments. My kids are pretty smart, too, which almost makes it worse–there are many school activities that come easily to them, so when things are difficult it is even more uncomfortable for them, and they sometimes want to give up quickly.
When things are hard for them, I always tell them there is only one way to get better–keep trying. I also remind them that it is not surprising that they aren’t very good at something they just started doing. And, I encourage them to continue adding difficulty when they master a level of any given activity. I am encouraging and supportive. Most of the time, when I am learning new things myself, I model the behavior I would like to see them adopt–I don’t get upset, I look at what I did wrong and how I can make improvements, and I keep going.
I need to start applying this to fiction writing, which is something I have always wanted to do, since I was very young–practically before I could actually write at all. I have written about reframing my perspective on ongoing tasks here before (Practice, Learning to Love the Process), but I need to make a concerted effort to apply it in this area. If I keep the quote above in mind, I can then apply the skills of practicing without a huge attachment to the end result, and focus on incremental improvement. I am thinking about printing it out, framing it, and placing it on my desk for a constant reminder.
Now I just need to set up some goals, make this kind of writing a habit, and start churning out that work. Of course, for the work to be meaningful, I need to make sure I am editing and working on improvement, not just putting words on a page, but that is not something I have trouble doing. The initial words on the page, or writing more than a page or so at a time is what is hard. So, I think I need to start with just getting work done, and not worry yet about volume. If I am writing fiction at all, it is success. After a while of this, I will surely gain confidence and be able to increase this goal.