A while back, I couldn’t sing enough praise for Ali Hale. She wrote great posts, she loved fiction, she was fun and chatty and reliable and made me smile every month.
Then she disappeared.
It felt like years of absence and I’d just about given up on her when Ali returned from her adventures of marriage, name changes, a house move and traveling overseas. She even brought me back a souvenir – this lovely guest post. Enjoy.
Some time ago, you set out on a writing adventure. And like any good adventurer, you carried a sword. It glinted in the sun. It looked impressive.
And it was sharp.
You fought dragons. You beat down demons. You forged your way forwards through a brave new world. But then …
Months went by. Years went by. And that sword wasn’t glinting so brightly anymore.
Your sword got scuffed and dented and rusted. It didn’t look very impressive. Everyone else had better, brighter weapons.
And worst of all, your sword got blunted. You wanted to fight bigger dragons. You wanted more treasure. But the journey was getting harder, and harder, and harder.
You started to wonder if the adventure was over.
Your adventure is only over if you stop learning and stagnate.
Whatever stage you’re at with your writing, you need to keep honing your craft.
When you’re just starting out, you have a lot going for you: enthusiasm, stories to tell, words that you’re burning to put down on the page.
And because of all that, most writers get to be competent. It takes time, sure, and hard work, but you can turn your raw talent into the ability to craft a good short story or a decent blog post. You might not win any awards, but you’re pretty good.
Your writing is solid. People read it. They take your message on board. And it’s easy to stop there. It’s easy to sit back and decide that you’ve finished your journey.
No matter how good you get, there’s always another step to take.
I have a few illusions about my writing. I know that I’m good. That’s a speck of raw talent combined with most of a lifetime’s work. I can write a decent blog post – I’ve written somewhere around a thousand posts in the past three years. I can write a well-constructed piece of fiction.
That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped learning.
I’ve just finished an MA in Creative Writing, where I worked with some brilliant tutors. I’ve been through Pace and Kyeli’s World-Changing Writing Workshop. I attend the big blogging conferences. I regularly share work with fellow writers and learn from them, just as they learn from me.
In part, I do this simply because I enjoy it. I love being around other writers. I love learning new things.
But I also do it because it’s important for me and for my business. If I let myself stagnate, I’ll end up with a bunch of unread blog posts, a handful of unpublished novels, and a bank balance in the red.
Whether your writing is a business or a hobby, take it seriously. Keep learning. Some good ways to start are:
- Write regularly. It doesn’t have to be every day, but a good session or two once a week is important.
- Go after bigger challenges. Write a guest post for a big blog. Submit a short story to a competition. You learn and grow when you stretch yourself.
- Read about writing. This isn’t a substitute for doing the writing, but it’s a great way to develop new skills and come up with new ideas. You’re already reading Men with Pens, so you’ve got a head start here. Other great writing blogs include Copyblogger, Write to Done, and Daily Writing Tips.
- Consider a course. You might want to study for a degree, or take a less formal course – an evening class or an online one.
Pick up your sword. Use it. Sharpen it. And keep fighting. There’s a lot more adventure still to come.
About the Author: For a sharper sword and a toolbox crammed with creative tools, check out Ali Hale’s Creativity Toolbox, a joint venture with Thursday Brahm. You’ll be swinging the steel in no time.