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Why There’s No Such Thing as a Writing Expert - And Why That’s a Good Thing

Why There’s No Such Thing as a Writing Expert - And Why That’s a Good Thing

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Published by K.M. Weiland
No matter where we are in our writing lives, no matter how many bad stories we write, no matter how many good stories we write, no matter how much we’ve learned or how much we’ve mastered - we still don't know anything.
No matter where we are in our writing lives, no matter how many bad stories we write, no matter how many good stories we write, no matter how much we’ve learned or how much we’ve mastered - we still don't know anything.

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Published by: K.M. Weiland on Jun 26, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/12/2014

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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
do
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
www.wordplay-kmweiland.blogspot.comwww.kmweiland.com
 
ourselves as experts (explicitly or otherwise) is the moment in which we losea little of our wide-open learnability. A naïve, arrogant, deep-down part of usstarts to think we understand it all.Every time I start falling into that trap, something eventually comes alongthat bangs me upside the head and leaves me with the star-spangledreminder that “I don’t know anything!” We all need to experience this painful, shocking, overwhelming epiphanyevery now and then. This epiphany can leave us feeling a little abashed, alittle ashamed, and, ironically, more than a little exhilarated. Stone walls andiron chains fall away. New vistas explode, and unexplored horizons stretch toinfinity. Blind spots flicker into view, and, even as the painful awareness of our writing weaknesses caused us to wince, we can laugh with the excitementof realizing that being able to see our problem means we’re halfway down theroad to solving them.Success, knowledge, and experience can sometimes lead us, unwittingly, tothe stuffy cell of complacency. And in a life—and an art—that demandsopenness and curiosity, this is death in a box. No matter where we are in ourwriting lives, no matter how many bad stories we write, no matter how manygood stories we write, no matter how much we’ve learned or how much we’vemastered—we still don’t know anything.No one can be an expert at writing, anymore than he can be an expert at life.Our journey toward mastery is a never-ending road, and the moment we startthinking we know everything, or even most of everything, is the moment westop traveling forward. Never stop learning, never believe you’ve achievedmastery. Always remember that your next big revelation is around the corner,waiting for you so long as you keep looking for it.Here’s to the journey. Here’s to not knowing anything. And here’s to nevermastering this beautiful, crazy art of the written word.

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