Not too long ago came an occasion where I had to talk to a friend of mine about his progression as a writer. He was down, maybe a little depressed with what he perceived was the world passing him by; writers that had been writing as long as or even less than he had been were surpassing him in abilities. Or, so it seemed.
In short, he was frustrated with himself.
So, I sat him down and we discussed where he was, where he wanted to be and some of his ultimate goals as a writer. I shrugged.
"I know what you're problem is," I said.
"What is it?"
"You lack confidence in yourself."
"Nah. I've always been confident, even to a fault."
"That means nothing when it comes to writing."
I had to think about that for a second or ten. I hadn't expected that question. This was my answer:
"You played sports growing up, right? Writing is like a sport."
He gave me a puzzled look.
"You have to want to play a sport in order to strive to get better at it. You have to want to write in order to strive to get better at it. Then you have to practice, practice, practice to continually better your skills as an athlete. It's the same with writing. You have to practice, write everyday. It's the only real way you can improve.
"Then there is the aspect of different techniques in sports. Take for instance baseball. One pitcher may throw four different pitches: a curve ball, a fast ball, a two seam fastball and a slider. While another pitcher may only throw three pitches: a fast ball, curve and a slow breaking ball. Let's say the pitching coach came in and told his pitchers he wanted to teach them a new pitch, maybe a split finger fast ball or a knuckle ball. They would have to learn how to throw it, learn the technique, how to grip the pitch, where to release it in the pitching motion, find out what type of outs you could get with those pitches (does it induce pop ups or ground outs or can they strike the batter out with it).
"Writing is very much the same. You learn one way of writing and then you expand, step out of your comfort zone and experiment a little. This makes you a well rounded writer. It gives you more styles to play with instead of the same cookie cutter way of writing.
"Like most athletics, there are rules you have to learn. The same with writing. There are dos and don'ts. You have to learn them. In sports, you can't learn all the rules at one time so you tackle them as you go along. You do that with writing as well—you tackle the writing rules one at a time, apply them to your writing and then moving on to the next set of rules. It helps you to build your abilities, albeit slowly."
I paused. My friend looked to be taking all of this in, nodding and so forth. He even asked a few questions, which meant he was actually listening.
"You know though, all of this means nothing if you don't have confidence in your abilities."
"But I do have confidence," he argued.
"No, you don't. Its one thing to have confidence while you are writing, but it's another thing altogether to have confidence in someone else viewing what you have put down on paper. You have to view your abilities in a way that makes others believe in you. Without that confidence you can hang it up."
My friend chewed on these thoughts for a while.
You folks out there listen to me for just a second. Writing can be achieved by learning about it, practicing it and then having confidence in it. Will that make you a great writer? Maybe. It depends on the person; the determination of each individual. Pick something out that you absolutely LOVE to do. Not that you like, but that you LOVE. It is the thing that you probably practiced the most at to be good at it. Think about it. Am I right? Yeah, I thought so.
If you want to be a good writer then you have to work at it. Some folks have a gift and it comes naturally to them. I think my friend Dameion is that way—he just has a way with words and I don't know anyone who writes better than he does. Period.
Now, my friend, the one I have been talking about, well, I see him everyday when I look in the mirror. Sometimes he's cocky, but not often. Other times he's bullheaded, yeah very often. However, all of the time he works at it, works at the writing so one day he can be the best writer that he can offer up to the public.
Oh yeah and he's pretty confident in his abilities. Sometimes he actually listens to me.
Now, get to your desks, open up your processor program and get to writing. And, while you are at it, believe in your abilities. Sometimes you are the only one who believes in you. It's up to YOU to make everyone else believe in you.
For now, I'm AJ and I'm out.