The Importance of Being Challenged

It’s been nearly six years since I felt as inexperienced as a writer as I do right now.

Over the past weekend I attended an all day writing workshop with local author Andre Harden. He was wonderful at delivering the wisdom and methods he has picked up since he first started writing.

In the first twenty minutes of Andre’s workshop I realized how little I knew and how much I had to glean from him. It had been such a long time since I had felt like a beginner writer that the feeling scared me. During the workshop I went through doubt, fear, and an ever plummeting confidence in my works and abilities as a writer.

I wrestled with all these feelings throughout the day and slowly, as the workshop progressed the fear turned to admiration, and the doubt turned to determination, and I was humbled. I realized there was no way I could possibly know the craft of writing as intimately as Andre who has been working at it for longer than I’ve been alive.

Despite how uncomfortable it sounds, I relished those doubts and fears. Not because I like doubting all the work I’ve done, but because I know that it is through doubt and fear that I push myself to a new understanding.

I come to a place where I can look at my work more objectively and I can say, “this doesn’t work. This doesn’t make sense. What was I even thinking here? Is there a point to this part of the story?” And those prodding, probing questions that seem to tear everything apart are all part of the refining process. I always say I love editing because of the result, not because of the work it takes to get there.

During this workshop, I basically edited everything I know about writing and storytelling. And the results look very promising.

I left the workshop filled to the brim with new ideas, inspirations, and a growing fire to learn and improve. I’ve completely reevaluated how I do villains, how I turn concepts into stories and how to put a novel together. As I’ve started working on what I discovered during the workshop I see that it is one thing to know about writing and another to take that knowledge and put it into action.

It’s so easy to fall into a routine that is comfortable and easy but not as effective or strong. The thing that comes to mind is when I learned to type. I was so good at typing quickly using just my two fingers and learning how to put my hands on the keyboard and then type without looking was long, slow, and painful. Now though, I can type much faster than I ever could with two fingers and using the proper technique will decrease my risk of injury and increase the longevity of my typing life (which is fairly important if I want to be a writer).

So I’m welcoming the challenge of taking my established routine and process and trying something new that could end up helping me craft better stories even if it means struggling through a couple of novels trying to get the techniques I’ve learned to a level of proficiency.

I know it is going to be hard. It’s already been hard in the few days since the workshop. I know it is going to take everything in me not to give up and go back to my old, comfortable ways.

But I’m so thankful. Andre put words to ideas and story structures that I knew existed but had no idea had names. He took things I had vague ideas about and made them into concrete terms and concepts. He took my love of crafting stories and taught me how to identify what it is about the stories that I love and how to recreate that in my writing.

Essentially, I was given an enlightened understanding of storytelling of which I had only been unconsciously aware.

Basically, I want to encourage you to embrace challenges, find someone more experienced than you and learn from them, and never shy away from the possibility of bettering your craft.
Have you ever been challenged in your writing? What’s the most important thing you learned from the experience?

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2 thoughts on “The Importance of Being Challenged

  1. I went to a similar workshop with an author a few years ago. We all had to read out sections of our own work which was scary enough, but what made it worse was that I thought everyones work was so much better than mine! It turns out that everyone seemed to enjoy what I’d done after all! This was such a big confidence boost and I’d also definitely recommend doing something like this to anyone. I still struggle today, mostly with finding the time to plan my story and actually get round to putting my ideas on screen, but I’m getting there. Thanks so much for this post!! 😊

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