The work itself will teach you.” Old Estonian proverb
“Satisfaction — that comes from work.” Paul Cezanne
Sometimes what falls away frees us. Have you found that to be true? I know I have. Just this holiday weekend, buoyed and brimming with newfound energy, I began organizing my pocket-sized office. This is an ongoing project, because I’m a piler, not a filer and my piles are always piling up. Casting through one of them, I found a notebook filled with writing articles from various authors that I’d collected. Alas and alack! The notebook had been in the line of fire of a leak in my ceiling and the pages were now soggy and stuck together.
Briefly, I thought of trying to rescue them, but decided against them and reluctantly tossed them away. Part of me was aghast: All those writing advice on character, dialogue, pacing! What would I do without it? Buried somewhere in that notebook that had been buried under a pile and that I hadn’t looked at in ages, might be one idea that would change everything! Almost panicked, I considered fishing the pages out again.
Then a blast of relief swept through me. I felt free. All that advice about how other writers did their writing was more of a burden than a blessing, I realized. Sure, there might be an idea or two that might have been helpful if I had taken the time to apply them, but in the end, as that old Estonian proverb says so well: “The work itself will teach me. And you.
Admiring and trying to duplicate the writing processes of other authors can be so seductive — and so much easier than the painstaking effort of developing our own. Sometimes this quest to piece together an approach to craft gleaned from othe can seem like chasing the Holy Grail. If we can just do this or this or that, then we’ll push ourselves to the next level. Constantly searching for the “secret” to good writing — the one that someone else knows — can keep us from cultivating our own best writing style and self. In the end, we can end up expending our own creative energy hoping to capture and bottle someone else’s.
We are all on our own writing path. Yes, there is much we can and must learn to improve our craft. There are many valuable ides and teachers who can help us. But it’s up to each of us to take what they offer and make it our own. We learn to write by writing. We find our own unique voice by listening with our inner ear. Write on!
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