“You will find it less easy to uproot faults, than to choke them by gaining virtues. Do not think of your faults; still less of others’ faults; in every person who comes near you, look for what is good and strong: honor that; rejoice in it; and as you can, try to imitate it; and your faults will drop off, like dead leaves, when their time comes.” John Ruskin
What a powerful punch this paragraph holds for us! As writers, who among us doesn’t feel that we have bad habits or weaknesses that we’d like to overcome so we can improve our writing?
How easy it is to become discouraged or mired in these aspects of our writing life! Ruskin offers us a better way — let’s unpack his words:
“You will find it less easy to uproot faults, than to choke them by gaining virtues….” — Science has proven Ruskin right: It’s easier to overcome a “fault” or poor habit by creating a more positive one than it is to try to root out one that isn’t working for us. When we focus on creating a new, positive writing habit, the poor one fades away.
“Do not think of your faults; still less of others’ faults” — Let’s not waste vital energy and creative power obsessing over our writing flaws or anyone else’s. This kind of negativity only results in frustration and a downward spiral.
“… in every person who comes near you, look for what is good and strong; honor that; rejoice in it” — Instead of draining our motivation by focusing on the negative, let’s accentuate the positive. Let’s focus our energy on celebrating what’s working and strengthening it — both in our own work and the work of others.
“… try to imitate [what is good and strong] and your faults will drop off” — When we find a writer with a flair for dialogue or for fast-paced momentum or great plot twists — if these are areas we need to work on and strengthen — let’s “imitate” their approach. Let’s study it and learn from it and make it our own.
Improving our craft takes focus and resolve. Let’s find fruitful ways to supplant writing habits that may not be serving us with ones that will as we all write on!