I find writing to be an immensely rewarding investment of time. Whether it’s writing poems like my friend Ellen or plays like my friend Jack Canfora. Whether it’s journaling, writing short stories or full length novels.
I came across an excerpt that struck a chord. It’s by Nobel Prize Winner Mario Vargas Llosa. In his beautiful book, Letters to a Young Novelist, he writes:
“There are no novel-writing prodigies. All the greatest, most revered novelists were first apprentice writers whose budding talent required early application and conviction.”
It’s hard to imagine a Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Chimamanda Adichie, Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, Bernadine Evaristo or Llosa himself, as an apprentice. They’ve created so much greatness that one would be forgiven to assume some people are just that good.
Early in my writing journey, probably at age 7 or 8, I had two fundamental flaws. One, there were times the writing spirit would engulf me. I’d write from start to finish. Keep in mind, these are short pieces. Probably a page or two. Then the next time I’d wait for that same spirit of inspiration. To my dismay, it didn’t descend on me. Frustration! I’d abandon the work till the next time I felt sufficiently inspired.
My second flaw was, once I was done writing, I handed it in. Confident of an excellent job done. Only for the results to come in and I had been penalized for grammatical faux pas!
As I have grown older, these fundamental flaws have taught me two things. One, in the words of Leonardo Da Vinci, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
Two, self-editing and proofreading are to good writing what a gym is to a bodybuilder. It is impossible to get any better while ignoring them.
What have you learned along your writing journey that has helped you become a better writer?