Will you get better as a writer? Author Barbara Baig discusses the idea of deliberate practice from Anders Ericsson’s book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. She says:
When it comes to becoming better writers, most of us make three assumptions:
- Each of us is born with a certain innate potential for achievement: We call it talent. Getting better at what we do is simply a matter of fulfilling that inborn ability.
- To get better at what we do, we just need to keep doing it.
- Improvement depends on how much effort we put in. If we’re not improving, we’re just not trying hard enough.
These assumptions are so common you might not even realize you hold them.
It is true that some people are really good at what they do, they seem to possess an innate greatness, while others are seen to work hard to achieve success, with writing the question is whether you grow as a writer simply by continuing to write, or is there something else needed in order to achieve greatness?
Take a look at Barbara Baig’s atticle, “If You Just Keep Writing, Will You Get Better?”
My own Lesson
I became interested in cross country running at 11 years of age, during my first year of secondary school. I have to be honest at that age I was the ‘only just made it’ runner on the second team (the school ran two 8 person teams). In other words I was the 16th and last member of the team. I enjoyed running and soon found that if I ran a lot, I would improve. Within 18 months I was leading the team, the fastest runner in the school (even better than the 15 or 16 year olds). I entered on a training schedule that meant I went running every night of the week (other than competition nights) over a 5 mile road course. I had three different courses, starting and ending from my house.
Can writing be like running?
When I was a young man I thought that if I wrote again and again I would improve. I found out one thing — I could simply write garbage faster than I did before. I discovered that writing better wasn’t simply a case of doing more of it, but a case of adopting more skills. The first one for me was about learning to spell and learning how to use words more effectively.
Being More Effective
Sadly when I passed through the schooling system in the United Kingdom, the general quality of teaching was poor. I will admit that I didn’t know how to spell, yet I passed my GCSE English (efter several attempts). In my 20s I discovered that if I was going to communicate better I needed to learn how to use words more effectively. The first thing I did was pick up a dictionary. The dictionary helps in two ways, first with spelling and second with understanding the meaning of words.
These lessons and new habits set me along the path of better writing. It is through this practical approach that I leaned that there was more to writing than simply trying and trying again. It isn’t a case of “wake me up when I’m famous” there is always work to do to improve how you write. Even the maters of the craft will reiterate the same message.
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