Mastering the Craft of Writing
By nature, writers are interested in many things. They’re observant, reasoning, seek motivations for actions and weigh reactions. Typically, they seek experiences because everything is story fodder. The deeper their creative well, the more assets are available to them to draw from—and that offers them more writing choices.
One of the most appealing things about writing is that writers have a license to explore a plethora of different interests—nearly everything can fall under the broad umbrella of research—and then to wrap stories around the interests intriguing them enough to share with others.
But for that license, there is a fee. Diverse interests have many upsides but there is a sizable downside, too. It’s found in boredom. When one’s interests are so diverse and hold broad appeal, the tendency is to bore easily. Writers get enthused at what strikes them as bright and shiny or challenging, but when the shine dulls or the challenge is conquered, boredom charges in. That makes writing difficult but also extremely attractive. Why?
Because to engage a reader, first the writer must be and stay engaged. All the way through the book. If s/he isn’t, it shows in the work. Readers sense it, and resent it. The book ceases to be satisfying to them, though they might not be able to absolutely identify what happened. The writer will hear or see comments to cue them that a vague unsettled feeling is an absence of enthusiasm.
That challenge is a big one, and it’s as important to writers as to readers. Maybe more so if the writer wants to continue to be a writer. Fortunately, there is a built-in assurance in the process so that a writer can stay enthused, and thus convey enthusiasm to the reader. No matter how much a writer studies the craft of writing, or how long a writer studies it, the simple truth is no writer will ever master writing. Attempting to master writing will always provide the writer with a challenge, with mental stimulation, because there is always something new or different to try, to explore, to learn.
Years ago, I decided to go back to college and get a master’s degree in creative writing. As I looked at the courses, I was both elated and dismayed. There wasn’t much available or required for the program that I hadn’t already independently studied. I met with my counselor and we evaluated. I challenged the maximum number of courses permitted and then continued, studying a lot of things that are now obsolete.
That might sound like a waste of time to some, but it was interesting. Stepping into the past and seeing how things once had been done. Wonderful book fodder.
Learning, for writers, is typically a lifelong passion. Pulling in a lot of disparate information creates a variety of possible scenarios. Finding the perfect one for a specific story makes the mind flexible, makes the writer think of combining odd or unusual things and then projecting what will happen. It keeps things interesting and intriguing and, well, fascinating. That makes work just plain fun.
It’s also why writers pursue learning their whole lives. After the master’s degree, I went back again and got a Ph.D. But I still haven’t stopped going to school. Conference workshops, online classes and discussions with writer’s groups keep the desire to learn fresh. Recently, I took a James Patterson’s Masters Class.
Why, after working all week—over 50 hours—for all these years would I do that? Because it’s fun.
That’s the other thing about writers. They love writing or they’d be doing something else. There are far easier ways to earn a living. But if you love something, it doesn’t feel like work. It doesn’t seem like a must-do, it seems like a privilege. That’s passion.
And passion is the key to determining whether or not you’re a professional writer or a hobbyist, which is vital information to know when deciding your career path.
I’ve been writing something nearly my whole life. I started with political essays, moved into poetry and quickly moved through short stories and into novels. I couldn’t wait to put thoughts into form then, and all these decades later, I still can’t wait to get to my stories today. Passion, enthusiasm, a deep love for what you do can take you to places that sheer will cannot go. Necessity can’t either. It’s the “for the love of it” factor, and it is potent and powerful.
When you’re debating whether or not to write, remember that every writer does debate it. Lots of sacrifices and we should debate the issue to make sure we consider writing worth the costs. When you decide it is—if you love it, you won’t be able to quit—then ask yourself how much you like to learn, to explore, to observe. If you naturally think about why people do the things they do, and don’t do the things they don’t, that’s motivations, goals, and conflicts: writer’s gold. If you naturally are drawn to learning and trying new ways and approaches to doing things, new methods, and if you find yourself exploring odd or seemingly insignificant things and seeing bits of good and bad in all sides of everything, then you might just want to try your hand at writing.
Of course, if you are writing and you’re on the fence about whether or not to continue, you could take the short-cut to find out. Quit. Yes, quit writing. If you can do it, then writing is not the profession for you. That’s the fastest way to discover the bottom line. Writers can’t quit. When they’re not writing, they’re not content. It’s that simple. So quitting to see if they can quit is a direct path to discovering the truth.
And isn’t it a wonderful blessing to know that no matter how long or much you study, how long or much you invest in exploring and learning, you’ll never master writing? There will always be a challenge. Always be something new to investigate or explore. Writing is, indeed, a lifelong adventure!
Now some of you will be disappointed to hear that writing can’t be mastered. That shatters an illusion for some, and causes feelings of being overwhelmed in others. But for those of us who have had, or hope to have, a lifelong intimacy with writing, this disclosure doesn’t cause dismay. It’s a reason to celebrate.
Oh, we’ll still experience days when we’re having a rough time getting words on the page. On translating the vision in our minds to the story. On pulling our hair out by the roots because nothing is working out the way we had in mind, but still we will write. Because we know that while writing, one thing we will never be is bored, and seeing where the next high or low appears is, to us, irresistible!
* * * * * * *
© 2016, Vicki Hinze. Vicki Hinze is the award-winning bestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. Her latest release is The Marked Star. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s website: www.vickihinze.com. Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact. KNOW IT FIRST! Subscribe to Vicki’s Monthly Newsletter!