Doing the Hard Stuff (Develop Strategies to Go Over, not Around Hurdles)

Writing for Children Blog | craft
March 31, 2016

by Jan Fields

When I was in college, I took French and I was horrible at it. I hadn't had
French in High School (I had taken Latin) and every other person in my
college French class were entering with at least a year of High School
French. It was like walking into one of those nightmares where everyone
knows the lines but you, and I left the first class in tears. After a month,
I couldn't understand it when it was spoken and my accent would make a
Parisian weep. I considered dropping the course to avoid the humiliation of
failing, but then I decided that was too much like quitting. So I worked. I
put more hours into passing that French class than in any academic pursuit
in my life. I ended up with a B.

I still can't speak French (well, sometimes it comes to me in flashbacks but
mostly it's gone). But I did learn that some things are hard and that you can
still do hard stuff if you're willing to work. It's a valuable lesson.

For some folks, writing is hard. Not just the story telling but mastering
all the picky bits of punctuation, grammar, verb tenses, etc that make for
smooth clear communication. For others, the punctuation is easy, but
understanding how to build a plot seems overwhelmingly difficult. For still
others, plot and punctuation are a breeze, but pulling themselves free of
writing in an adult voice is their Achilles heel. And it's easy to focus on
your shortcoming and feel like you're coming into the class behind everyone
else so why not simply get someone else to do that part for you by paying an
editor. Why not? Because even if you have weaknesses, you can overcome them.
And by mastering the use of all the writing tools, you become more in
control of your work. You can do it -- you actually can. Even if all that
picky stuff is not your gift, you can still beat it. It may be hard work,
but it's in the work that we find the magic.

I hear a lot of writers who are hiring people to fix all the hard stuff for
them -- the grammar, the punctuation, the verb tenses, the continuity, the
voice -- and if they are taking the corrected copy and poring over it so
that next time they can do all that themselves, then I think that's not a
bad use of money. But ultimately, writers need to learn how to use the tools
of language. If you met a plumber who had someone else do all the wrench
work because he'd never learned to handle his tools -- would you feel you
were actually talking to a plumber? Who is the plumber in this picture: the
guy on his back fixing your sink or the other man standing and sharing his
idea about sink fixage?

If you want more writing instruction like this, plus lots of tips and great resources, click here!

Being a writer means doing the fun stuff...the parts you enjoy...and the
hard stuff, the parts that feel like trudging through mud up to your knees.
It means learning how to use your tools and then practicing with them until
you master each one. It means being in control of your work so you don't
have to hand it off to someone else at any point for "fixing."

That doesn't mean I disapprove of critiques, free or paid, or editing. I
love those things. They help us see those areas where we are still blind - I
know the editors who work at my publishers are constantly pointing out my
blind spots and making me see more clearly. They help me learn the spots
where I need to dig in and do the work. Because writing is work. Becoming a
writer is becoming a craftsman whose tools are language. We need to get
excited about our tools, love them, want to gain new ones and learn to use

As part of your drive toward writing success, determine to add to your
writing tool box. Look carefully and decide which new tool you need -- then
go get it. Do the work of learning to use it. Study the masters and how they
handle that tool. Then try it yourself until you are a master with it. And
when your toolbox is truly full, the prose you produce will be worthy of
you. I promise it will.


If you want more writing instruction like this, plus lots of tips and great resources, click here!



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