From one writer to another…

I read a post (you can read it here) recently by the brilliantly talented Heather Mackey that got the wheels turning inside my head, and had me evaluating myself as a writer and as a person. Heather explains, using the example of a memorable Chinese story, how she learned about herself throughout her writing journey, and how she has come to appreciate those lessons now that her book, Dreamwood, is becoming a reality for her.

[As a side note, I’d like to congratulate Heather Mackey. I look forward to reading Dreamwood, and I’m proud of your accomplishment after all the hard work you’ve poured into this book. As a writer, I can understand the struggle, and I want you to know that your contribution is appreciated, and your hard work doesn’t go unnoticed; at least with this writer.]

Recognizing Your Value

One of the hardest things I struggled with as a writer, was recognizing my value as a writer. Like Heather, I heard dozens of times, “Oh, wow…you’re really good at this.” Of course, I brushed that off most of the time, assuming that the person complimenting me was just being nice or trying to spare my feelings. Even winning awards and scholarships since elementary school for my writing, and scoring well on every writing test I sat for over the years, it didn’t seem that I would ever recognize my worth as a writer. I still struggle with this, and with the overwhelming sense that no matter what I say, it isn’t worth hearing to the rest of the world.

Heather goes on to explain her struggles, even after securing some recognition from within the industry. I feel I will probably be the same. I know that regardless of how well I write my manuscript, there will be a flaw, there will be a problem, there will be an inconsistency within my story that some editor will point out–and I’ll feel like the world’s worst writer. I’m my own worst critic. Truly, I hate everything I write, only because I know better than anyone that it isn’t perfect. Heather’s story encourages me to write anyway, and to keep the self-abuse down to a minimum whenever possible.

Knowing What is Truly Important

This post taught me more than the simple lesson that I’ll never be perfect. I already knew that. In fact, I think that’s what I crave more than anything–someone to tell me WHAT’S WRONG with my story. When I get reader input on my manuscript, I’m always secretly hoping there is something so glaringly insufficient in my writing that I’ll be forced to go back and do a better job. The worst part is that I consistently get the same response; “This is incredible. Now, where’s the rest?”

However, Heather taught me something I hadn’t expected to learn, and something I haven’t yet experienced enough to have learned on my own. [Another personal side note: Thank you, Heather. I’ll hug your neck one day for this.] I knew that writing was a lot of work. I knew it was, like any career, more about the effort you put in than the skill or talent you possess. In the same way that two musicians can sit side-by-side, playing the same piece perfectly, and sometimes you can’t tell which player began studying the instrument at the age of three and which one started playing in middle school…sometimes you can’t tell the “natural” writers from the ones that have put a lot of time, money, studying, and effort into their craft.

Becoming A Student

In a nutshell, I’ve learned that I must learn. I must become a student of writing in my everyday life if I want to truly succeed as a writer. If I want to reap any sort of reward from my hard work, I have to keep working at being a writer. I have to keep practicing, and I have to keep learning. I will never learn everything there is to know about writing, and I’ll never be “the best writer in the world.” However, I will be the best writer for the stories I tell, and I will do the best job I can for the audience that wants to read the stories I give them.

So, remember that you’re a student. No matter your profession, keep learning. It’s the only way to be sure that you’re doing the best you can.


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