Why You Need to Never Stop Learning to Become a “Master” Writer
Writing is something you do for life, like brushing your teeth. If you want to “master” your craft, you need to realize that mastery is a process not a destination. Arriving at this realization is often a frustrating journey, and unfortunately many writers give up when they only needed to shift their thinking.
How to Adopt a Continual Learning Attitude
1. Focus on learning over earning.
If you’re in it for the money or the fame, you may have to wait a while. Chances are you will be among the legions of writers who are called to the page but still need to work day jobs and remain nameless. Most likely you write because you can’t stop, you feel more alive when you do it, and you love your characters more than you love real people. Take this passion and put it into discovering more about writing and how to do it better. If you’re lucky, you just may make a living writing if you preserver.
2. Read and write…a lot.
Steven King once said, “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” I believe he knows what he’s talking about. If you’re a writer, you need to write over and over. Write blog posts, journal entries, magazine articles, poems, short stories, screenplays, and novels. You can even enter contests.
Don’t forget to read as much as possible too. Reading allows you to absorb vocabulary, style, and structure. It’s a good idea to not limit what you read. If you typically only read romance, why not try Sci-Fi? You can learn a lot about your craft by reading outside your comfort zone.
3. Embrace failure.
This is where reframing your thinking really comes into play. See “failure” as another way to learn. You find out what works by trying different approaches, and some of those approaches won’t work but you don’t learn that if you don’t try. I started off writing humor. I enjoyed it but I wasn’t good at it. I learned a few tricks from trying that approach that I still use in my writing today. So I wasn’t successful as a humor writer but I gained a lot from the experience.
And guess what? You are not alone. Many writers before you have “failed,” including William Golding (Lord of the Flies was rejected 20 times), Margaret Mitchell (Gone with the Wind was rejected 38 times), Beatrix Potter (who had to publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit herself), Frank Herbert (Dune was rejected 23 times), and J.K. Rowing (the Harry Potter series was rejected 12 times).
4. Stretch yourself.
Try writing in a new genre. This will require you to learn the conventions of that genre which means you’ll need to read up in this area as well. Do some creative writing prompts. To me, this is like to doing exercises that build your writing muscles. You might even consider participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is writing a novel in one month—the ultimate writer’s challenge. Stretching yourself is a great way to shift your thinking from toiling to learning.
5. Trust the process.
At the end of the day, you need to have faith that if you show up, do the work, and don’t quit you are on the right path. The more you practice, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more you discover and on and on. You just know it is right and you know you will be writing for the rest of your life.
Masters of Writing Prove That Learning Is Continuous
A master knows that he or she doesn’t know everything, and therefore learning never stops. These masters are proof positive that great writers never stop learning:
Now it’s Your Turn
Do you believe that writing is a life-long apprenticeship? What one thing on this list can you do today to become a continual learner? Let me know in the comments below.
Dana Leipold is the author of “The Power of Writing Well” and the founder of POWW School, an online school for writers who want to self publish.
Twitter Handle: @POWWSchool
Google+ profile: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+DanaLeipold/