On Patience

Thursday, October 11, 2007

It's old news by now, but earlier this week the Austinist interviewed fellow SWT alum [1]
Scott Blackwood about his upcoming novel, We Agreed To Meet Just Here. The interview offers some encouraging words of wisdom for aspiring writers:

I think the thing I try to get across to student writers is that they need to be patient—the typical writer's apprenticeship is probably ten years. You can't rush it much. There's a lot of falling down and getting back up again.

I think you have to read like a writer reads all of the time, for the sensibility, the techniques, the craft your favorite writers are using. I think that some people think talent is enough, but from my experience, it's the knowledge of craft and the development of a writer's sensibility, the sense of rightness and proportion, that evoke talent—not the other way around.

I like the ten-year theory better than the everything-happens-at-thirty-two theory. For one thing, it's shorter to type. For another, it acknowledges that writing is work, a skill that takes practice and perfection rather than something that one day bursts forth from a wellspring of talent.

And I like Blackwood's take on talent as well. It's hopeful. During my three years in the writing program, I felt like a magnificent impostor—a no-talent hack who was somehow mistaken for a writer. But I watched my stories improve as I practiced daily and as I studied writers I admired. In the years since graduation, I've felt my skills decline again. Thinking of talent as a consummation of study and practice gives me hope that I can get my skill back.

Anyway, I've started up my short story journal (journal) again and I'm going to add a regimen of daily reading and thinking about writing to my schedule in hopes of getting back to the "study" portion of the writing life. I'm good at studying. At writing, well... that remains to be seen.

[1] Sadly, no claim to fame for me. Scott graduated at least a year before I got there, though I did, apparently, inherit his TA office as evidenced from the stack of manuscripts I had to clean off the bookshelf.