“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. Growth demands a temporary surrender of security.”
It’s easy to get stuck in a writing rut. Now a rut is not the quite same as writer’s block. When you hit a block, you can’t get started or move forward. When you’re in a rut, you’re stymied in a different way: you’re not growing or deepening your craft. You’re drowning in your comfort zone like a bee stuck in a honey pot. It’s so sweet, it’s seductive. Better yet, it’s safe. Know the feeling? I certainly do!
In her wonderful handbook, The Creative Habit, dance innovator Twyla Tharp says, “Too many people practice what they’re already good at and neglect the skills that need more work. It’s pleasant to repeat the things we do well, while it’s frustrating to deal with repeated failure.”
We all crave those pleasurable feelings, and yet working on our weaknesses is the only path to real growth and improvement. That’s why most great artists in every field actually practice more than everyone else: they’re concentrating on their imperfections and courting failure and frustration in the process. That’s the price they’re willing to pay to stay sharp and creatively dynamic.
Think about it: the most acclaimed musicians spend many more hours practicing than orchestra players. Legendary athletes like Michael Jordan are known for putting in far more practice time than their less-driven team-mates.
How about you? Are you great at narrative description, but weak at plotting or dialogue? What you focus on expands. Why not spend some concentrated time analyzing your skill base? See where you’re strong and where you need to develop your creative muscles — and then tackle that area systematically.