By the time I realized the art of writing a novel was something that couldactually be learned, I had already written three (admittedly awful) books.They were awful. Then, one day, when I was about halfway through my fourthbook, I happened to be browsing the bottom shelves at the library, where Ipulled out a book titled
How to Write (And Sell) a Christian Novel
.I checked the book out, polished it off in one or two sittings, and closed theback cover to the realization that my writing—and my life—had changedforever. I checked out a few more books from that bottom shelf. Around thethird or fourth one I decided they were all the same, and, anyway, I had it allfigured out by now. So I quit reading them and buckled down to finish writingBook #4. It was also awful.This is about when I started thinking,
Hmm, maybe I don’t know it all yet.Maybe I should keep reading those bottom-shelf books after all.
The more time we spend studying our craft and the more we learn, the easierit is to lose sight of our own fallibility. We master a little corner of the craftand immediately start feeling like Superman, floating out there in space,complacently smiling down at the world, congratulating ourselves for saving itonce again. We read a book by another author, start picking out the mistakes(which, only a few weeks ago, we were making ourselves), and smuglycongratulate ourselves for being experts compared to this poor fool.The truth is we probably
know a good deal about the craft. We’ve studied,we’ve grown, maybe we’re even experts. But the moment we start thinking of
Why There’s No Such Thing as a Writing Expert—AndWhy That’s a Good Thing