Have you ever felt trapped by your weaknesses? I know I have. Many writers feel like they’re just not good enough to create a finished story that people will enjoy reading. Perhaps not all of the time, but that feeling can creep in. It’s very easy to focus on what we perceive as our flaws, and this can cause us to miss our strengths. It can also lead to procrastination, and even just giving up completely.
Basically, we get overwhelmed because we feel stuck. We know what we want, but we don’t feel able to get it. In these situations, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to be perfect! You never will be, and nor will anyone else. “Perfection” is subjective in any case, particularly with creative pursuits. Your writing is probably better than you think it is, and by focusing on the flaws you’ll be missing what you do well.
That doesn’t mean we can’t improve, though. Working on your craft is a worthwhile pursuit. You’ll get better just by continuing to write, but there are additional ways to strengthen your abilities. One of these is to dedicate time to learning.
First, think about something you believe you can do well. (You’re not allowed to say there isn’t anything!) Perhaps a beta reader/critique partner has complimented you on it, or maybe you just like the results when you focus on that thing.
Now you’ve remembered you do have strengths, it’s time to think of something you want to be better at. Perhaps your dialogue doesn’t flow as well as you’d like. Maybe one of your characters doesn’t seem to have much motivation. Or maybe it’s something like not being sure if you’re using commas correctly.
Once you know what you’d like to work on, it’s time to do some research! Reserve some time during your week; an hour, perhaps. Spend that time finding resources (books, podcasts, blog posts or even courses) about improving what you’re focusing on.
A single session might be enough, or your choice might require some more studying. What’s important is that you are focusing on it. This will give you new skills and make your writing stronger. You could do this on a regular basis, or just focus on it when you don’t want to write but want to do something productive.
The above advice applies to editors and proofreaders too. Continuous professional development is essential for keeping our skills sharp and increasing our efficiency and productivity. I’ve taken several courses, but often I just need to look at something simpler. I use various keyboard shortcuts and search codes when I’m using Word (E.g. alt + 0150 for an en dash). However, I often find myself forgetting some of them. I used my last learning session to make a list of the ones I use the most often, which I’ve printed out and put on my wall. Now I don’t have to go searching every time I need to tell Word to look for a straight apostrophe (^039).
Do you have a system for strengthening your skills? Get in touch and let me know!