Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Great Writing Is A Skill That Can't Be Taught

I was thinking about this idea as I was thinking ahead to the upcoming RWA and PNWA conferences this July. At each of these conferences, like so many other conferences, there will be a ton of "CRAFT" sessions teaching an assortment of approaches to successful writing. There will be sessions on synopsis writing, dialogue, narration, character building and so forth. To add to this, there are a ton of books out there teaching writing and approaches to writing. Heck, I have taught classes at the college level on creative writing. In simple terms, we cannot look far to find someone teaching writing, and, unfortunately, it isn't going to help. 

This may sound discouraging, but being a great writing is a skill that cannot be taught (and this is coming from a blog that teaches writing - huh?).

I do think it is important for us to remember that great writing just happens naturally. I tweeted this yesterday but I think it is worth repeating. We simply do not sit down and say, "Today, I am going to write a great novel or a great scene." Sure, we want to do that every day, but we just don't approach writing that way. We write from the heart, and sometimes, that great novel just comes out. Sometimes that novel is just "so-so". 

The thing about writing (or any other skill for that matter) is that we learn the skills and we learn the basics, but those skills simply do not teach us to be great at it. There is, however, that one moment, and I am sure you have all experienced it before, when all of a sudden the light clicks on and you "get it". It is, what my adviser in Grad School called the "ah-ha" moment. 

When you think about someone learning to play an instrument, let's say piano, those early days are really difficult. We sit at the piano, look at the music, spot a note and say to ourselves, "That is a B-Flat." We then look down at the key and find a note and say, "That is a B-Flat." And then we press on the key. But when we get really good, we simply look at the page with all of the notes and our fingers just know what to do.

I am not saying that all of the sessions on writing are a waste of time. I am not saying that reading those books or reading this blog isn't a good thing. What I am going to say is that we have to remember as we diligently take notes, that we have to be able to internalize those skills. We have to understand that the skill itself is not going to make us a great writer. It is the ability to know when to use those skills and why we use those skills. 

I have referenced this in the past, but Bloom's Taxonomy is a great reminder. 
For many new authors, learning those skills is just moving us up to that third level of APPLYING. We can use the skill in a piece of writing and that is about it. Over time (yes this is that same comment that writing and becoming successful takes time) you can start to look at your writing, internalize what you are doing and truly understand why that skill works and doesn't work. 

I think what I want to you leave with today is to remember to just take those courses, learn those new skills and internalize what you are doing. Add those approaches to your tool kit and keep practicing. It will come, I promise.

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