When you start writing (and even if you keep on doing it), you hear “All you absolutely have to do to be a writer is write. Everything else is extra.”
Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Then they start in with, “If you really want to write, you need to read. Extensively. In and out of your genre,” and “You need to focus on improving your craft, whether through critique groups, workshops, classes, conferences, writing books . . . ”
Wait. I thought all I had to do was write?
Except it makes sense, really. First, if you don’t like reading, why would you want to write? Because you think it makes you look smart? There are easier ways. Second, it’s true in any creative endeavor.
My son took up trumpet this year. He (mostly) practices every day. But he listens to music, he hums theme songs he remembers from movies, he tries to work out how he might play them himself (“I need to know a couple more notes before I can try the Harry Potter theme.”), and he pays attention to what other people have done. He also listens to the songs he’s playing on a CD and tries to play along to get the pacing correct.
I’ve done a couple of quilts. This year, I decided to do a mystery quilt presented in American Quilter magazine. I knew it would be stretching my ability (it recommended having completed six to eight quilts before tackling this one), but I figured it would expose me to techniques I might not willingly try on my own. (I’ve decided I don’t want to do a postage-stamp quilt. I don’t like working with one-inch strips.) I also check out winners in the American Quilter’s Society’s shows, as well as those in state fairs.
All it takes . . . is three steps. See what others have done. Figure out how to apply it to what you want to do. Then do it, over and over again.