No other craft seems to be burdened with wannabes who insist that their work come fully formed and in masterful shape from the outset. How many times do we hear new writers bemoan the fact that their first drafts are rambling, difficult, truncated and downright stupid? How often do aspiring writers speak of their expectations of writing a perfect first draft and their assumptions of publishing the same work? Why is it that writers—who should know better—insist that their prose flow out of their fingertips like fine wine instead of the blotchy ink that is more the norm before they will commit to write?
Writing is a craft and it takes a long time to master. How many years did Michaelangelo apprentice before he was able to go out on his own? How many years before he finally “saw” the David in the marble and grasped the hammer and tapped, releasing the form, rather than carving and fashioning it? Those who achieve mastery in the craft of writing spend years and years perfecting their ability to write and honing their sense of narrative and story. Always, they are learning. But does that mean they must hunker down and stuff their heads full of technical terms and poetic vocabulary? Should they become so absorbed in the various arms of the discipline that they forget the body?
Good writing demands fluidity, energy, and an almost seamless, artless grace. It is never labored, never bogged down in its own prose, never imprisoned by structure. I suggest it’s simply a matter of perception. Writers should approach their writing with excitement coupled with the expectation of discovery and wonder: with the beginner’s mind. They should not be too hard on themselves. Nor should they compare themselves to those they’ve placed on pedestals: they must understand there can be no comparisons. Each must do his or her work in his or her own way and that’s it. Yet, these same writers must learn from others, pay attention to detail, become willing apprentices. They must do all these things and more. For they have chosen a craft that has no end.
True masters know their jouney has no final destination. Instead, they come full circle and appreciate the true gift of writing: the beginner’s mind. There is always something new to try, some narrative structure to tackle, a sudden new voice to take on. Good writers are forever young. They give themselves permission to always grow, to allow for mistakes, and most of all, to remain eager to learn. A writer is, after all, forever newly born into the art of writing.