The work itself will teach you.” Old Estonian proverb
“Satisfaction — that comes from work.” Paul Cezanne
Sometimes what falls away frees us. Casting through a pile of papers, I found a notebook bursting with writing articles from various authors that I’d collected. Alas and alack! The notebook had been under a leak in my ceiling and the pages were stuck together.
Briefly, I thought of trying to rescue them, but decided against it and reluctantly tossed them away. Part of me was aghast: All that 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. 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 seems 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 style.
Each of us is on a writing path that’s ours and no one else’s. Yes, there is much we learn to improve our craft. There are many valuable ideas 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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