I have a confession.
Sometimes I feel like a fraud.
As I’ve been working on a bunch of different entries for this blog, mostly about creativity and writing, I keep running up against this wall. There’s this inner voice, almost worse than that inner-editor. The inner-critic. The voice that says things like: “What right do you have to write about writing,” and, “There are plenty of writers out there that have actually published something, and have actually shared their writings, that could talk about this,” and, “Aren’t there already a gazillion books about writing in the world, do you think you’re saying anything new?”
It makes me want to place my credentials out there. To respond to that voice by proving the fact that I have actually been published, although I’ll also be the first to diminish those publishing’s by tacking on caveats to make it seem lesser than others publications. To emphasize that while my degrees are in history, and religion, I have attended schools that put a major focus on writing. To argue that while I have yet to complete a viable novel manuscript, I have written A LOT. I have taken creative writing classes, and participated in fiction workshops. For a while I had a nice little stack of rejection letters from places I had submitted my writing over the years? But, what purpose do those arguments serve? Other than making it clear I feel like a fraud and want to justify myself?
I struggle with this inner-critic. But I then I step back and remind myself I never claim to be an expert (on anything, really. Unless I’m joking). Because I believe there is always more to learn, always more to discover, and no one can ever hold all the answers. So when I am writing about creativity, and the writing process, I am writing about my journey, the discoveries that I’ve made along the way — and hoping that perhaps others will share their own journeys and discoveries.
Today I saw this tweet retweeted by @maureenjohnson:
Ideas and desire are not enough. Writers need to put in the hours learning our craft that a master violinist spends practicing.
— Shannon Hale (@haleshannon) March 21, 2014
After a moment spent wondering how in the world I had not followed @haleshannon yet, I began to reflect on the question of how a writer puts in those hours. First, I had to admit that I have kind of failed when it comes to practicing things when I should be. I never put in the time with my cello that I was supposed to — but I knew that I was supposed to be running scales, doing bow exercises, and working through the pieces that we were going to perform. With ballet it was similar, I was supposed to be doing barre exercises, and running through routines. I remember the rule of thumb being that, at least for my cello, I was supposed to be practicing an hour a day. And probably, if I really was committed to playing the cello, I was also supposed to be studying music theory, and listening to cello music (which I did, so at least I wasn’t completely slacking).
Why would I view writing any differently?
Like any art, like any skill, you have to keep putting in the time, energy, and effort to be good at it — and to keep it sharp. It’s about cultivating those ideas, and also about exploring the process. Reading and learning from the masters, whoever you may consider the masters to be. Participating in classes and workshops. And writing, of course. Writing and writing and writing. Trying different kinds of writing, challenging yourself to take on different styles, different perspectives, different genres.
And for once, it’s something I have actually — happily — put the practice time into! I don’t want to know how many hours I have spent writing, or how many times I have genre jumped over the years. I have written short stories, poetry, sermons, lectures, academic papers, novel-length thesis’ (thesi? What is the plural of thesis?) and fiction-novels (or, to be honest, novel portions). And, as I said, I have attended classes, and am constantly reading about other author’s process, and talking about it with friends.
What more is there involved in practicing my craft? In putting in those hours? What should I be doing additionally? Honestly, at this point I think it is just following through. Sticking with the ideas I have and making them happen, putting the hard work in to get the story on the page. And then revising, editing, and looking for input from others.
This is something I know — where I don’t feel like a fraud, because putting in the time and energy and practice is something everyone needs to, novice, intermediary, or expert. We all need to practice, and this is one thing that I have been practicing.
But I am curious what others think — what are the things you do to help you practice your craft? Or that you feel you should do?