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Working Through Inexperience, Getting To The Other Side

A photograph of Hever Castle's lake. A few row boats sit on the water.

I believe that experience is important, and that more life experience, reading experience, and writing experience are going to make you a better writer. Oddly, though, writers don’t talk a lot about this kind of progress. I’ve heard lots of writers say that “you can’t teach writing” — i.e., you’ve either got it or you don’t. This seems to be based on an assumption that writing ability is something static and unchanging, like a gene. Some writers, perhaps, don’t want to admit that writing can be taught (which is to say, that writing can be learned), because admitting that you can get better at writing means admitting there was a time when you weren’t a great writer. (Gabbert, 2018)

Something that occurred to me recently is that I’ve been comparing and contrasting books in my reviews and other posts as I wanted to when I first started blogging. I remember reading other blogs and wishing I could write with the knowledge those bloggers did, recognising the gap between my literary experience and theirs. This made me think of the thought I had about my reviews back then, that knowing experience is the key; my reviews were necessarily rudimentary and I thought I should really wait some time before writing.

It’s a fair thought to have and in a small way I stand by it – my first reviews weren’t very good and there’s a definite change over time that’s not linked to conscious decision. I reckon most bloggers feel similarly; but if I hadn’t reviewed back then, whilst I might have gained the reading experience over time, the putting into words would’ve taken a lot longer. The ‘doing’ aspect of progressing is just as important as the learning and mental improvement.

Because that’s the thing about improving over time – you want to try to be good at something from the start but you have to acknowledge that at the start especially, done is better than perfect and you will at some point look back and feel a bit embarrassed at your first attempts even if others say they were good; own worse critic and so on. I relate very much to those bloggers who delete their old posts even though I’d be reluctant to do that myself; no matter what the reason for being less happy with your old work, at some level there’s the knowledge that you do things much better nowadays and aren’t quite who you were then.

I’ve had a few interests in my life where more experience wouldn’t have an effect so I’m happy seeing the changes in reading and blogging, and due to this I’m more aware of smaller changes in newer interests, too.

What hobbies/academic choices/career-related-things have you worked through to get to that other side, where was your starting point, and how was the journey?

Online References

Gabbert, Elisa (2018) What Should I Do If I’m Ashamed Of My Published Work?, Electric Literature, accessed 9th April 2018.



April 9, 2018, 10:04 pm

I teach writing. Currently I teach the students who work for me how to teach writing (how meta, huh?). Sometimes practice is the best teacher, and my job is to stand back and be a midwife to better writing. Other times, though, writers need readers to share their reactions in order to let the writer see how the ideas are coming across.
I’m always working on becoming a better writer. In fact, the last time I wrote a paper for presenting at a conference I used some of the techniques for getting started that I teach my students (I’ve posted a version of that paper, about necromancy in fiction, on my blog)

April Munday

April 12, 2018, 12:47 pm

One of the good things about a blog, at least on the WordPress platform, is that you can go back and edit early posts. I’ve amended a couple where I’ve learned more since the post was written, and I want to work back through all of them to make them clearer.



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