Writing: The Blind Learning Curve

Fiction writing especially is generally considered hard. Well at least very hard to ‘master’ as a hobby its fairly straightforward to pen a tale, but when one comes to wanting some publishing or other forms of success things suddenly get very challenging.

I’m going to try and answer the question of why this is today with a slightly odd approach.

You see writing is hardly alone in being difficult, I mean there are dozens, hundreds of all sorts of activities which could be considered even harder, more competitive, requiring more expertise, but I honestly think there is something uniquely painful about trying to be a published/’acclaimed by more than your kind family and friends’ writer.

My theory for at least one of the sources of this is the nature of writing’s learning curve. As I mentioned above many, many activities are hard to learn. Music for example. Music is very similar to writing, there are matters of technique to grasp that if you fail on you simply will not produce good music, and then there is a whole raft of theory and rules that are really important to understand, including when to break them, however exactly how to do so being extremely subjective.

However where music and writing differ is in feedback. Or perhaps more appropriately the nature of feedback. If you play an instrument feedback is almost instantaneous. If you pick up a guitar an flub a few notes you know about it (P.S. people can be delusionally arrogant about music just the same as writing but it tends to be less common outside teenage years in my opinion). Equally with music you see and enjoy your own progress as it happens. There is no waiting for submission responses, beta-reader feedback or wondering if that line about true love was too cheesy.

My ultimate point that as a writer there is a steep learning curve, a mountain that we tend to climb in the dark. It’s really hard to know if we’ve got things ‘right’ and perhaps more importantly awkward to sit there with something that is most probably ‘wrong’ but not have a source of feedback to tell us to.

Not only does this make learning hard, it also leads to a sort of avoidance of real feedback, kind of like not going to the Doctor in case you get told you’re sick. I think we all know that feedback is an important part of learning, while at the same feeling anxious about where on the learning curve we might be sitting at that moment. This isn’t to say that writers are all neurotic egotists, more to point out that it’s human nature not to like uncertainty especially in regards to our own standing.

While we hope that we’re nearing the top of the curve it’s painful to be shown clearly what our failings are and sometimes its easier not to know.

learningcurve

Just a short thesis on one of the many challenges of writing, what do you think?

What other ways is writing hard to master, what unique trials does being a ‘serious’ writer bring?

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