Worse at the Craft

As you can see, I changed the colors and head image of my blog again. My only explanation is I get bored easy. Those who subscribed to my monthly newsletter knew about this permutation last Friday. If you’d like to know of my arbitrary flashes first, sign up for this newsletter in the sidebar.

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Worse at the Craft
image by Christina Xu
https://www.flickr.com/photos/crimsonninjagirl/

Is it possible to get worse at the craft of writing?

It is said, quite often in fact, that a person can improve at whatever he or she does by practice. This means doing whatever it is repeated day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.

There was a time when I sincerely believed in this. When I was an elementary school child, I took piano lessons. I practiced every day for thirty minutes. I did get more proficient at it to the point where the nervousness of the recital was minimal. In upper elementary school going all through junior high school and senior high school, I spent hours learning how to play the flute. Not only did the anxiety of performing in front of others become infinitesimal, I also entered into local and state contests, winning a blue ribbon in various categories.

I’ve written more in the past decade than I have all those years before since grade school. Yet, when I read what I’ve written in these past ten years, my conclusion is I’ve regressed.

How can this be?

It could be I need a refresher course in the basic rules of English. My style is okay but not what I would consider terrific, by any means. I break the rules as I see fit, which may not be the best way to write. True, I read about how it’s okay to do away with some of the rules for the sake of the story but maybe I’ve gone too far. After all, the rules were created for a purpose. Moreover, I could take a course for free. There are several websites offering free basic grammar classes, yet I’ve chosen to ignore them.

It could be I’ve become so accustomed to writing like I speak. My speech is full of jargon and clichés. Of course, this means my writing is full of this junk too. So many people I have contact with are writers and 95% of that contact is through the internet, which means my language is also tarnished with terms that aren’t usually read in the books I prefer to read and write. Yet, looking at my WiP, I readily see these terms that, I’m quite sure, would turn the stomachs of readers. The people I converse with by phone or in person are usually family. I don’t adjust my speech for them.

Yes, I do believe a person can become worse at the craft of writing. The dissatisfaction of my efforts is enormous these days. The impediment my laziness has caused is abominable.

My solution is to go ahead with a free writing course. I’ve signed up to take a course at openlearning entitled Scribble: Writing for New Writers. It’s self-paced so it doesn’t interfere with anything. I know some of the lessons will be repetitive for me, so probably a little tedious. Still, I’m hoping to unlearn bad habits I’ve gotten into during these years.

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How would you judge your writing skills these days?

To be a writer is to sit down at one’s desk in the chill portion of every day, and to write; not waiting for the little jet of the blue flame of genius to start from the breastbone – just plain going at it, in pain and delight. To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again, and then again, and once more, and over and over….
John Hersey [from THE BRAINSTORM GALLERY]

 

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21 thoughts on “Worse at the Craft

  1. Glynis, I don’t think I can offer more or better advice than I’ve already done, but taking a course is a great idea. There’s always something new to learn.
    Do you belong to a writing critique group? I think I asked you this question before, but please forgive me for not remembering your answer. I belong to a group I would identify as all amateurs yet I learn something every meeting, whether from the writers whose work we’re evaluating that week or from the comments of the critiquers, even when It’s not my work being considered. It’s also great to be around people who love reading and writing, just to have those adult conversations with a person and not a blog identity.
    I love your new blog look. Moody and mysterious.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Living in this dinky little town, I can’t even find a support group, let alone a critique one. I’ve thought about joining one of the online groups but most want participation I can’t give right now. I do belong to Writing.Com. I can submit my work there in small doses and have other members give me feedback. I’ve already done that once and got some good constructive criticism and suggests. I want to reciprocate before I ask for help again.

      I hope the moody part of the design isn’t too dark. :/

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like blue, and I like your header. I think you don’t improve writing or your craft if you don’t try to change. While changing the way you approach it can be uncomfortable, it is a great way to find out what we really enjoy and actually be creative with it. Over the years I have decided to incorporate different perspectives in my writing, and that has made me enjoy it even more.

    Ironically, a lot of my blogger friends are not writers. They are more of the photography kind. In a way I think this is good because I don’t compare myself with other writers and their writing. On the other hand, it is always nice to know a likeminded group of people who can empathise with the challenges you go through and support you understandably.

    Good luck with your writing course. It sounds like you are looking forward to it, an I hope you get something out of it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t know if my writing has improved with practice, but I’ve gotten more comfortable with the nature, voice and direction that I bring to a page. I took several writing courses, many years ago, but that was when I thought I wanted to write fiction. I’m not sure that will ever be possible. I find that when reading lots of content from others, particularly others who are, in my opinion, very good at their craft, I have to be careful of what I “learn” from them. It’s hard not to be influenced, but I try to find subtle aspects and I try to adapt them (if I like them) or adapt something that I do, in a way that reflects what I like and don’t like. As for grammar, I need help and I look for advice in books, blog posts, cheat sheets and from people who have a way better understanding of the subject than I do. Good luck with the course. Just be sure to change the delivery mechanism (if you feel the need) but not the vision you have.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I understand what you mean by being influenced by other writers, especially when reading their blog posts. What works for one is not necessarily going to work for anyone else. Maybe you’re more of a journalist type of writer. You know, one who has a column of truth sprinkled with opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s hard for me to judge with being hypercritical. I’d like to think my writing has improved since I started writing in high school. But then I think about the few stories that make me cringe and wonder what I was thinking putting this out to the world.

    Sometimes, I feel like I need a refresher course. I’ve researched online writing courses that are free, if not, affordable. Haven’t run across any so far. And yet, because I haven’t written consistently throughout college and after graduation, I feel like there is so much more I need to learn.

    I hope there will come a time when I can say my writing has definitely improved. Until then, I’ll keep plugging away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. George, I seem to be exactly like you. I’m hoping I’m better than I was in high school but I doubt it because of what I see when I read more current work. It’s enough to drive you bonkers.

      Like

  5. It’s possible your voice is changing and you are uncomfortable adapting your writing to the new you. Maybe you should include the phrasing and words you have in everyday speech, see if you are freer to say what you really want to say.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Jacqui, I have been trying to just let the words flow as they are in my head, which is what I do when I speak. Yes, I have “foot-in-mouth” disease. I wonder if I should be using the apostrophe with contractions or if they should be written out. I know I can break rules of grammar but which ones should be steadfast? Would the style book tell me? I doubt it.

      Like

  6. It’s most likely that you’ve grown more aware of all that good writing entails, thus becoming a harsher critic of yourself as your skills grow. There is no apex or point when a writer will probably feel they’ve arrived. I know my skills are top-notch and I can write well, but self-doubt plague me nevertheless. It’s a never ending battle, but one we all have to make some degree of peace with.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I can’t say our writing degenerates. I find writing gets tough and uncomfortable when trying too hard. The brain is overwhelmed and refuses to cooperate. I believe more and more, vomiting the first draft on the page is best because then you have something with which to tinker to your heart’s content. On the other hand, I believe what one other commenter mentioned, that we are more critical of our own work as you improve. It’s it in-between space to the next level that hurts. {{hugs}}

    Liked by 1 person

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