How Writing Teaches You: The Craft and the Lessons

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What the Craft of Writing Teaches

Writing Creates the Writer

Striking the mouse and leaving a Facebook fiction writing group evoked sadness and frustration. The recent joining of another writing group to expand connections with writers quickly devolved into yet another journey of the absurd with religious zealots, lunatics, and incompetent writers masquerading as authors. The decision to quit this group resulted from the removal of my post linking an article with no other purpose but to improve writing. Having gone as far as to announce the link provided free access, easily verified with a click, brought astonishment when removed. Surprising more than the link’s removal was the uncontested posting of other links to similarly themed articles on blogs by persons with a glaring inability to write. In one case, a man daily posted a new derivatively-scribbled article discussing writing improvement methods, which he sadly failed to apply to his writing.

He committed this fraud because he is not a writer.

His teaching with a rudimentary knowledge of literature boggles the mind, conjuring visions of this know-it-all scanning websites to regurgitate elementary writing methods to claim mastery over the craft. He is a charlatan committing fraud in a digital domain that allows the rise of the least knowledgeable person to lead the group. The group must be ignorant of his incompetence; otherwise, they would not entertain the self-aggrandizing and recognize the lack of mastery. For many group members, this ignorance is forgivable because they joined a group whose leader’s expertise stems solely from joining or starting the group: little kings and queens of the digital domain. The members’ plight saddens deeper, knowing no one masters the writing craft; the craft masters the writer by perpetually teaching, resolving, and articulating the author’s perceptions.

If you don’t understand this, you’re not a writer.

A man recently asked, “What are you going to do after you finish writing your book?” Frowning at the question’s nonsense, I answered, “Write something else.”

A writer doesn’t write one book and stop writing. Someone who writes one novel is not a writer but a person who wrote a book. Many bestsellers came from someone who just wrote a book, making this argument appear counterintuitive, but selling millions or writing dozens of books does not always make one a writer. The craft of writing actualizes the writer the way the practice of medicine makes the person a doctor, or philosophy makes a person a philosopher.

If you don’t understand this, you’re not a writer.

I am personally friends with one writer. I know many writers but cannot be sure of their authenticity since they never revealed their relationship with writing. I know my friend is authentic because he understood when I told him of a small notepad carried to work for writing whenever on break or sometimes in the bathroom. People believe many things when hearing that story, with some thinking it foolish while others assume an obsession needing psychotropic medicine. Still, others immediately ground themselves in the widespread, grotesque, faux humility that confounds quality writing with apologies meant to justify any hint of selfishness or ego and assume writing in the bathroom a presumption of wisdom. They are wrong. Writing in secrecy on the job or late at night when one should be sleeping is not the act of a person faking wisdom for others to marvel at but instead a self-divining for truth. As the doctor finds truth in the many nuances of medicine, and the philosopher finds truth in logic’s rigorous application, the writer finds truth constructing stories.

If you don’t understand this, you’re not a writer.

More than a quest for truth, writing actualizes the author through practice. The medical practice creates the doctor on a long, complex journey that answers the person’s emotions, conflicts, aspirations, and many other quantities known only to that person. Similarly, the philosopher’s study of argument, logic, and metaphysics fulfills desires and needs but also the void of intrinsic unknown quantities. The pursuit of writing holds the same answers and resolutions of self that redefine across life, but only to the writer.

If your writing does not provide this insight, you’re not a writer.

I do not envy the doctor or the philosopher. The doctor’s path appears laden with situations inspiring visceral reactions leading to an inevitable end medicine cannot currently halt. Equally daunting is the philosopher’s path beginning with what seems to the layman a tremendous stop sign of nihilism, and how the philosopher navigates the inability to logically justify anything while dealing with irrational people and religious nonsense, dumbfounds me. These fields confound because I am not a doctor or philosopher. Whatever the doctors and philosophers learn from their respective fields differs vastly from what I glean but shared is the ardent practice fraught with the high cost of entry, many instances of failure, and a lifetime of study. The philosopher and the doctor study their fields until death, and so the writer pens to the last breath. Published or unpublished, known or unknown, poor, rich, happy, or sad, the pursuit of writing defines the writer.

If you don’t feel this dedication to the craft, you’re not a writer.

Perhaps more perplexing is the question of why someone produces derivative, poorly constructed articles to feign writing mastery? The simple, innocuous answer forms from simple overconfidence. Perhaps the person’s aptitude for writing earned teacher praise and good grades during education. Perhaps friends enjoyed the person’s storytelling and suggested becoming a writer. Why wouldn’t the person believe themselves a good writer? If adulation and good grades amounted to writing mastery, then many people would become writers.

There may be financial, Freudian, or Jungian reasons for feigning writing mastery, and whatever they are, practicality likely drives the fraud. Faking one’s way as a doctor requires circumventing licenses, credentials, and legalities, while the writer needs only voice the claim. How much easier is this fraud in a world where serious readers are a minority? If no authentic writers read and judge the fraudster’s work, his claim goes unchallenged.

The writers pool clouds with fakes but clarifies in the defining difference between writers and people dabbling in words: writers bow to the craft as opposed to glorifying themselves with it. Writers seek answers in the craft as opposed to personifying themselves with words. By giving yourself to the craft, pursuing truth, resolutions, and constant learning, the craft gives itself to you in a new, growing awareness of the derivative and idiomatic thoughts within you. The redundancies crystalize, and critical examinations of tired concepts reveal unseen contradictions, assumptions, and often senselessness. More than just knowing yourself and the world, cognizance of the charlatans forms.

The craft of writing gifts you these strengths, making you a writer.

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