Why I am Failing as a Writer: Part 8 – The Things We Think We Know

For once, I am not certain I really connect with this one. I am not failing as a writer because I really believe I know how to write. Or that I already know X, Y, or Z about the craft. I really don’t. If anything, my problem is the opposite. Or rather, it is that I believe that I suffer from the opposite.

This is part 8 in my ongoing series where I turn Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s ongoing series on “How Writers Fail” into a self-indulgent treatise in why I am actually failing as a writer.

OK, maybe self-indulgent is a bit of a stretch.

Actually, I am turning a critical eye inward using her posts as a guide to look into the reasons I am not as successful as I’d like to be as a writer. In part 8, Kristine took a swipe at writers who don’t learn, or refuse to learn because they think they already know.

Honestly, I am never sure that I can raise my hands there. Granted, sometimes I roll my eyes when listening to someone wax poetic on a writing topic that I find I already know. To say that I don’t listen anyway, to see if there is anything to glean off the lessons, would be a lie. I still listen. Even to the editor who was trying to give advise on storytelling on a popular podcast. Yes, an editor. One can see many of Kristine’s previous posts where she slams editors who believe they know all about writing stories better than writers, while not having written books themselves. But I still listened.

Nuggets of wisdom can be found anywhere. Terrible books can be full of good information and great books can have none to use in story telling (though the latter is not as likely).

Being so early still in my journey, it’s tough to find out what I am doing right or wrong in the stories themselves. Or with the writing. Unable to afford an editor (wait… didn’t I just trash them?), that path is closed to me. Not that I’d wish to go down that path. I also lack beta-readers for most projects. And oh woe is me.

Eventually something might take off. Or it may not. [insert shrugging emoji]

Of course, a large desire sits there staring at me that things will work out and book sales will soar. The hope is that it is enough to displace the 9 to 5… at least. Still, I am aware that whether it happens or it doesn’t is not an indication that I know my shit when it comes to writing. All that it says is that I did a sufficient job at telling a story people enjoy. Whether I could have done it better or worse would be endlessly debatable.

And sales would help indicate that. As well as ratings and reviews.
Then again, it’s all a nebulous cloud of unknown. Who knows what will happen if I suddenly start selling books with any regularity. That’s really the point of it all. Everything of this whole process is all a shot in the dark for me. Sure, technical aspects of publishing a book are easy; I know them well. But being a writer… all I can think to say I really know is to put words down in some order.

What order is best? Don’t know.

What steps should one take in developing a character? Don’t know.

How are the best stories formulated? Don’t know.

Etc. Etc. Etc. It can get to be a CVS receipt-length list of the things I don’t know.

What I am confident though is that I enjoy writing. I enjoy storytelling. One could argue that at this time I don’t do as good a job as possible at telling those stories, but few people have told me that my style or writing have torn them from the pages and made them walk away. That’s at least a start.

The whole point to Kristine’s post is a critique on those who refuse to learn. Mostly, these are people who have seen their writing ossified, wherever that point is in their career. Reasons exist of all sorts as to why that might happen, but in this case, it is because these writers believe that they don’t have anything to learn, that they have mastered the craft. I hope that I am never that.

There’s really something to learn in almost everything. It might not work all the time, given that some stories require different techniques than others, but it is always worth taking the time to see what is there. And sometimes things can be circumstantial. One who believes that they mastered something and therefore are free of the “burden” of needing to learn won’t necessarily see that. Each project will be approached in exactly the same way — and will then sound exactly the same as every other project.

But there’s another reason one might not want to learn. Or two that are intertwined. Fear and ego. By admitting that one has something to learn calls into question their own capability. If one allows that question in too far, then it could run through everything, shattering every perception one might have of their own abilities. They fear that by admitting they don’t know this, then it could mean they don’t know anything. And maybe that is true, but what does that matter?

Learning is best to view as opportunity. That is how I try to look at it. Hell, the entire reason I decided to write these little “responses” to Kristine Rusch’s posts was the opportunity to learn. Partly of my self; partly in the craft. No matter what though, one thing is for certain, whether at some point in the future I start to think another way, for right now, I don’t think there’s any way possible that I could ever know all there is to writing… much less anything.


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