Finding Magic

Writing is easy right? It has to be. I mean we’re all taught more or less how to do it in school. So when you call yourself a writer, interested people are often excited and ask what kinds of things you write. Even if you’ve just started to dabble in different forms, your answer will spark a generally enthusiastic response. A discussion of likes and dislikes is apt to follow, but eventually the conversation will end in one of two ways. You’ll either hate each other’s taste in reading material and awkwardly agree to disagree before moving on to how awesome / bland / dreadful the weather is. Or the person will ask where you’ve been published.

If you’re lucky enough to have had your work made public (online, in print, performed, whatever), you can confidently go ahead and crow. But, if like the majority of people who write, you haven’t yet found the right home for your work, you’ll likely want to die of embarrassment or go sob in a corner somewhere.

That nasty little voice in the back of your head will start yabbering away. You’re not published? You must be crap. Why are you wasting your time? People are laughing at you.

Under that kind of onslaught it’s hard not to feel like a failure isn’t it?

Don’t. Every single writer on the planet has been there, generally multiple times.

Writing is easy. Anyone can do it. These are both true. But writing well is hard – extremely hard.

What you learned in school has conditioned you to write clearly in predictable patterns. Good writing isn’t always like that. It doesn’t always follow the rules. Take dialogue. If you listen to people talking, you’ll hear what I mean. How many people speak in complete sentences, or follow a thought through to conclusion? What if someone else talks over the top of them? What if they’re arguing? Good writing shows all of that without having to state X was arguing so much with Y that neither could get a proper word in.

The point of all this is to remind you that a lot of craft goes into the creation of magic. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to established authors whose work you admire. If you’d just started painting would you compare yourself to one of the greats? Of course not. To do so would be self abuse. Writing is no different. Doing it well takes both practice and persistence. The more you do it, the better you’ll get.

To begin, I’d suggest taking a leaf out of Yoda’s handbook and unlearn what you have learned. And in beginning, remember that like any other art form, failures lead to new understanding. Let them happen and you’ll start finding magic behind the most unlikely trees.