Is “just keep doing it” the right advice?

The Tortoise and the Hare


Writers are a tenacious bunch to say the least.

They know that the hardest part of writing is to keep doing it when it seems no one gives a hoot about what they write.

They type “The End,” take a deep breath and hit the keys that spell “Chapter One.”

And so on and so forth.

I know because I’ve done it.

Just like you have, if you call yourself an author.

But the question is if this approach to writing, the keep at it at all costs day in and day out mantra, is what makes fine writing.

I see two sides to the debate.

On the one hand, staring at a blank page or thinking about words one may write some day does nothing to improve one’s craft.  The learning comes from the doing.

On the other hand is the notion that in order to improve an author must evolve.

The thing about evolution is that it takes a long time.

Glacial comes to mind.

The easiest way for an author to act is to keep utilizing the forms he has relied on throughout his career. For him the techniques he has developed have been tested by fire over years of critique, input from editors, and the slings and arrows of outrageous reviewers.

Does the author turn a deaf ear to his critics?

Or does she let her guard down and engage in self-evaluation?

Maybe that dialogue was too talky, maybe the prose too purple, the Amish vampire a bridge too far. Maybe the notion of writing short is a cop out to avoid the tedious work of painting a detailed historical narrative.  Maybe the long paragraph is a refuge of a writer too enamored with her own words.  Maybe the hint of romance, that tidbit thrown in to appease the crowd, was better omitted.

And what about that opening dream sequence?

Some say it’s anathema.

But the one James Lee Burke used in Black Cherry Blues ranks among the most powerful few paragraphs I’ve ever read.

And then there’s the genre thing.

I naturally fall into one or two genres just because that’s the way I think about the world. But does that mean I shouldn’t try my hand at something else?

I hope not.

At this stage in my writing life my primary goal is to get better, to learn something new every time I sit at this desk.

My only hope is that by continuing the journey I may happen upon new places and be able to share them with a reader or two.

How about you?

Do you make a conscious effort to try new things with your writing, or do you just keep on keeping on?


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