"Writing is a Skill – Act Like It"
By: Jenaya R. Curry
Warning! We have a situation.
There is an outlandish belief surrounding the arts, especially writing. Somewhere along the line we decided that creativity – no matter what form it takes – stems from natural talent. Either you have it or you don’t.
This stigma is ingrained into our minds. Imagine if you met an astrophysicist and said “Wow, I love your work! You have such a natural talent for science.” I guarantee you haven’t encountered such a statement. Why? Because to say this would discredit this person’s work ethic, education, research, and the long, hard hours they spent mastering the field. But often I hear the compliment, “You’re a gifted writer” said to myself or to others. While most people don’t do this intentionally, they give off the impression that they believe skilled writers are born, and are not the result of practice, critiques, and many failed pieces. This can also be discouraging to new writers as it seems their improvement efforts are in vain, and it diminishes the work experienced writers have put in to reach their skill level.
But you’re not off the hook either. Using this notion to keep yourself from advancing as a writer is self-sabotage. So listen up. If you want to master the craft of writing, you’re going to have to learn to. That’s what skills are. If you’re up to the challenge, here are four tips to level up faster and hack your writer’s journey.
- Become bored with your writing. If your tone of voice is driving you up a wall, good. Let it become stale to you. This isn’t about assessing strengths and weaknesses; it’s about exploring new writing styles. You might very well have beautiful poetry with stellar imagery. But did you notice the way you felt attached to another writer’s characters? How about clean, persuasive style of their essay? Or the way their mere words distracted you until the plot twist was revealed? Anything that captivated you, try it. Writing is diverse; stretching yourself across multiple aspects provides immersion, allowing your skills to improve much faster. As the saying goes, “Jack of all trades, master of none, but oftentimes better than master of one.”
- If you need evidence, go find it. Writers evolve over time. This can be hard to remember when the pieces you read are polished to perfection, but try to find someone who’s willing to show you their earlier work or first drafts of current works. You’ll be motivated to learn that every word is not a stroke of genius. Remember those failed pieces I mentioned earlier? Every writer has them, but you don’t see these because they’re horrendous – and the quickest way to find out what doesn’t work. I keep a cringe-worthy zombie story I wrote sophomore year of high school just to remind myself how far I’ve come. And no, you can’t read it.
- Call yourself a writer. I mean it. None of that “I write on the side/for fun” to avoid people bringing it up. (Guilty as charged.) Your career may not be in writing, and there may be a million other things that you do, but in addition to that, you write, therefore you’re a writer. It’s really that simple. There’s no “writer” test. The point of calling yourself a writer is to grow your confidence in your skills and in your ability to improve them in the future.
- Have a growth mindset. The growth mindset is a psychological trait in which people believe improving their talents/skills takes learning, practice, and hard work, compared to a fixed mindset in which people believe their talents are innate. Adopting a growth mindset doesn’t mean having positive, flowery thoughts towards your goals, but if you don’t think writing is a skill that can be developed, you’ve wasted your time. For those of you that haven’t…
Leave a comment! What do you think about the debate between natural talents vs. learned skills? What lessons have you learned in your writer journey? How do you keep your skills sharp? Let us know!
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