Wednesday, August 03, 2016

IWSG: Skill and Grit

This month's Insecure Writer's Support Group Day is brought to you by Tamara Narayan, Tonja Drecker, Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor, Lauren @ Pensuasion, Stephen Tremp, and Julie Flanders. You can learn more about the IWSG on their website.

For August, we've been posed the following question: What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?

The first story I wrote as an aspiring writer was a fantasy novel called Let Silences Be Broken. The story was about a group of magicians who get their magic by voluntarily giving up speech. One of the main characters was an albino woman pursuing a renegade magician. Their minds are blown when they encounter people who speak a different language. I may still have a paper copy somewhere, but otherwise, it's on a floppy disk somewhere in what I hope is an unreadable format.

A few days ago, an article was published on Medium with the click-bait title "You're Not Meant to Do What You Love. You're Meant to Do What You're Good At." The author of that piece apparently thinks skills are fixed and that loving to do something isn't enough to make you good at it. She says that "If everybody did what they thought they loved, the important things wouldn’t get done. To function as a society, there are labors that are necessary. Someone has to do them. Is that person robbed of a life of passion, because they had to choose a life of skill and purpose?...There is only finding a job that suits you enough that the work doesn’t feel excruciating. There is only finding what you are skilled at, and then learning to be thankful."

While I agree that there are jobs that may not inspire passion but are still necessary for society, and I also like her later idea that we should focus on giving to others with our skills, I think settling for work that doesn't feel excruciating can still drain the life out of you. (I've had jobs like that.) None of us came into this world with skills; we had to develop them. I may have been born with an aptitude for words, but I still had to read thousands of books; study writing craft; critique other writer's work; and write, write, and rewrite some more to get to my current level of writing. I had to learn the skills for my current job when I transferred into the position as well.

How does one develop a skill? By practice and perseverance. Angela Duckworth's Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success not only discusses how to develop a skill, but how to develop the grit needed to follow a passion despite setbacks. Toward the end of the book, she quotes a poem about writing. I don't have time to type it out, but it talks about how when you first write something, it isn't very good, but the more you work on it the better it gets.

If you love writing, not just the idea of being an author, but the actual thinking of stories and characters, sitting in front of a computer for hours on end to bring them to life, and sharing your work with others, don't let anyone tell you you shouldn't write. Even if your first efforts aren't very good, that doesn't mean you can't improve with dedicated practice. We may not evolve into Shakespeare, we may not be able to make it our day jobs, but it's still worth doing. So persevere with what you love, no matter what anyone else tells you to do.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

A job that doesn't feel excruciating sounds about as bad.
Most people suck at something the first time they try it. Even if they don't, they still have to work to improve that skill. And if we don't love it, we'll not work very hard.

Sandra Almazan said...

Exactly, Alex. Why work to develop a skill if you don't enjoy using it?

Pat Dilloway said...

Even Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky had to practice.

Crystal Collier said...

I think anyone has the potential to become anything. Truth. (Other than changing genders. That's just wrong. *shrugs*) Given enough work and effort, anyone can develop a skill. They may not be the most talented in the field, but they can achieve.

emaginette said...

Writing is something I've always done. When I did decide to write fiction, I picked up more than one how-to-write manual. They couldn't help me with my terrible spelling or homophones, but what's creativity without structure. To me, it will always be a work in progress and that's why I love it so. :-)

Anna from elements of emaginette

Hart Johnson said...

Preach it, sister! The daily grind wears us down if we don't at least get SOMETHING besides a living from it. And developing the skill that is our passion is exactly what we need to strive for. That is not to say we shouldn't ALSO do other stuff that needs doing. But the passion is how we recharge to keep going.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sandra for a thought-provoking post.
Writing is a hard gig. Frustrated by perceived setbacks I have wanted to quit many times, but couldn't. The writer in me won't let me stop. I have to turn off the practical critic who says I could make more money pouring coffee at Tim Horton's even though she's right, the snobby critic who likes to remind me that Oprah hasn't called yet and the usual-suspect critic who likes to tell me my work stinks and will always...
Anyways, I agree with you, we must persevere and continue to do what we love.
I found you on the blog hop and am thrilled to discover Broad Universe!!! I'm working on my first dystopia.
I wrote on my Lovin' Danger blog ( on today's blog-hop topic, but I don't seem to be listed.
Anyway, it's been nice finding you,

Maria Zannini said...

For me, the writing was liberating and fascinating. It's what came after...the constant pitching and promoting. I miss the old days when I used to spend all day in a bookstore browsing.

Sandra Almazan said...

Pat, that just proves everybody has to practice.

Crystal, that's a very encouraging attitude!

Anna, I feel there's always room for improvement too.

Hart, yes! Writing helps me get through all the zillions of things I have to do every day.

Jo-Ann, thanks for stopping by! I hope you check out Broad Universe too. I've found them to be very helpful.

Maria, some parts of being a writer are better than others.

Lynda R Young said...

Why not challenge yourself and try something just outside your skills? It's a good way of expanding your knowledge and skill base and living a little. Great post.

Diane Burton said...

Perseverance is essential. Without it, even the most talented won't succeed. Thanks for the inspiring post.

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