Monday 16 August 2021

Growing As A Writer - The Creative Process


One of the biggest questions I get asked is this: how do you grow as a writer? I've talked about it on my Authortube channel (found here) and I've talked about it on the blog before, but I wanted to touch on it again, because it seems to be the big thing that people, especially writers, are always thinking about. How do you grow? And are you always growing? And how do you know you're growing? Is it quantifiable? Can you personally see it? And if you do think you are, are you really, or is your brain just tricking you?

Oh boy, all the questions, and all of them valid, because at the end of the day, isn't all art, and writing is included in that, subjective? I mean yes we have the greats, the ones that most people will sit and say: this is the best thing ever, but even then there are those who struggle to find what someone else likes about it. Writing is one of those beasts where if you keep doing it, you're probably growing as a writer. If you keep doing it, if you keep exercising that muscle, if you keep getting critique, whether through betas, or a critique partner, or through the professional edit, then you will grow.

But is it something that you can really see? Are you able to be objective enough about your work to spot anything that might show signs of growth? I did a piece on being objective a few weeks back (found here) and the short answer is: it depends. I've read some authors who with every new book, you see them grow and come along in leaps and bounds. I've read some that seem to get worse with the bigger they get, it's all subjective and I'm not about to give you a surefire answer to this question, because really, no one can.

Part of growing is learning, it's adapting, it's becoming better than you were before. For some writers this happens rapidly from day to day, for others, it takes months, or years, or many many books. I look back at Blackout, which was my d├ębut and written around 2001, and then I look at the Lights Out trilogy, and I think yeah, I have very much grown since those days. But that might not be a fair comparison because different genres and skill sets, so from Dying Thoughts - First Touch to the final book, again, I see growth, I see a marked difference in the way I approached the story, and that series took me almost 15 years to write. You would expect to see some growth over that time period, especially as I kept writing, I kept flexing that muscle.

Of course, the problem for a lot of writers is that they want quick results, or they're overly critical of what they write. That's not a bad thing, being able to see the flaws in your work is a good tool to have, and some would argue those who are more critical of what they do, are more able to see growth. The way I see it becoming a bad thing is when you can't see any good in anything you've written. When you're constantly tearing your work apart to the point where you don't even see the original story idea in there any more. That's when critical becomes destructive and becomes a detriment of the writing process.

By the same token, loving everything you write to the point where you think it's perfect and beyond reproach, is going to have the same effect. You won't see the flaws, so you won't engage in edits and the like, and because of that you won't see the parts that need work, or the parts that don't quite live up to what you have in your head. You stunt your own growth because your ego is telling you that everyone who's critical of it is just a hater and you're some perfect master of fiction.

So where do you draw the line? How do you make sure that you don't go to either of these extremes? I mean, it's easy to think, well I like some of what I write and I work on getting feedback on the parts I don't, and I keep practising so maybe I'm not the worst ever? And that's a good point. It's all about that balancing act that I've talked about before. It's about making sure that you're not buying completely into either camp. You're not tearing down and hating every word, but you're also not preciously protecting every single one either. You know there's room for improvement, there is always room for improvement, and from there, you do the work, you show up and write and edit and revise and work, and you get to the point where that growth happens. Word by word, line by line, it slowly starts to become something that has showcased your growth.

So how do you know if you're growing as a writer? You're writing, that's how. You keep going, you keep that ego in check, and also the gremlin that tells you everything is garbage too, and you just keep going. You will grow, it'll take time, but it'll happen, I guarantee it.

Any thoughts? Lemme know in the comments below!

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