Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I'm Not Ready - Draven Ames - Biggest 'Ah-Ha!' Moments in Writing

John Cleese explained stupidity on Youtube. He quoted a researcher from Cornell University who said, 'In order for you to know how good you are at something requires exactly the same skills as it does to be good at that something." The basic point was that if you were not good at something, like writing, you would not have a high enough skill level to know you were not good at it. Peer reviews help here. One of the only ways to get good at something is to practice. There is, of course, observation as well (editing, reading writers I like (and don't)), or finding books and articles on writing.

The idea that someone who is not good at a skill does not know they are not good at that skill could be why there are so many bad self-published books, and why some look back at their past writing and cringe. At the time of writing some of my earlier work, I thought I understood writing. In retrospect, none of it is 'good' by my current standards. We've all heard the term 'learning book,' which is when a writer finishes that first and spends all their effort, sometimes years, trying to make that novel work. These are all good examples of not having had enough experience to know when we are not good at something.

Why would it be important to realize when not good at something? For starters, I don't burn bridges with bad work. Success rates when submitting increases with level of skill and exposure. Knowing I should improve might make me more apt to seek peer reviews, classes, articles, or any other form of education. Also, in the event that a story gets picked up, I won't be embarrassed by it down the road. With quality writing, a following is being built, whereas bad writing pushes readers away from any future sales. With quality stories, readers will seek out more.

Things changed when I realized I did not have every tool I needed in my belt. There are plenty of writers teaching writing classes (try Michael Knost). There are many books on writing (On Writing - King, Elements of Style - Strunk). We have countless authors to read and learn from, both good and bad. Spending so much extra time reading other books has brought back a love for fiction, too, and introduced many new authors. Knowing where I stand helps me see how far I have left to go. Thank you to all of you writers and readers who are helping me to learn along the way.

And if you want to see that John Cleese video on Youtube, look up 'John Cleese stupid people.'

No comments: