Brain scans, experiments and studies indicate that we really get better at understanding people and their interactions if we read fiction. And if we talk about what we’ve read, perhaps with a friend or more formally in book groups, our understanding increases. So don’t think of reading and talking about novels as simply a wonderful way for us to pass the time. Think of it also as educational, a study in human psychology.
‘The Craft’ can refer to many things. Wicca and Freemasonry are both known as ‘The Craft.’ The craft I refer to here is the craft of writing.
I’ve always been a writer, or at least as long as I was capable of putting pen to paper and constructing meaningful sentences. I discovered one summer when all my friends were on holidays or away at camp that the only way to dig myself out of the pit of boredom into which I had fallen was to write. It was then, in my pre-teens, that I began writing my first novel.
I have written several novels since then. My first few attempts were never completed. The next few were. I’ve self-published three and am working on a fourth.
What I’ve learned over the years is that just like any craft, the practitioner has to build the best article (let’s call it a table) they can and go on to learn better techniques so that the next table is even better. It is a waste to build the same table over and over. Learn from your mistakes, learn new techniques, and build a better table the next time. Each table can be better than the one before, but the earlier tables can be serviceable, functional, sturdy pieces of furniture, but without the style that a later table might have.
Take courses in your craft; get together with other writers and edit each others’ work; read what other writers have said. My favourite book on writing is still Stephen King’s On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft.
We have to keep on practicing our craft. Never give up. If you want to be a writer, write. Learn your craft. Practice your craft. But keep on writing.
Reading another person’s writing with the aim of finding weak areas and making suggestions about how they could be strengthened is more fun than I expected. I’ve been part of three writing groups for varying lengths of time and have realized at last how much I get from them. At first, I thought that the only way to get someone to edit my work was to pay them, and then I discovered writing groups. They could do the same thing for me, I thought, but in payment I would have to slog through a bunch of junk. Not so. The quality of the writing I’ve met in these groups has been so high, that reading the offerings has been a joy.
What’s so great about writing groups? For one thing, I love the process. I get to read another person’s writing, make what I hope are helpful suggestions, and in return I get two things. I get their helpful suggestions about my work, and I also get to read their responses to my suggestions. These responses are both in the varying degrees of appreciation they express, and in the form of reading what they’ve done with the original piece. This is a chance to participate emotionally in their creative process.
If you haven’t joined a writing group yet, I encourage you to join one, or start one yourself. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.