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Show, Don’t Tell…whatever that means

Ever since I began writing, I’ve been plagued with the critique “show don’t tell.” As I attend conferences, I realized this seems to be a curse upon many writers as well. I accepted it as just a part of my original “voice,” and something I needn’t change. Supporting this belief was my lack of understanding the advice, believing it was something people said when they had nothing else better. People were buying and loving my books, after all. However, when I received a letter from a publisher stating I needed to address this hiccup before they’d publish my newest novel, I rethought my decision to ignore the phrase. Then, in January, I was accepted into a “Show Don’t Tell” course through Odyssey. The instruction helped me realize that, while I excelled in plot, my attention to description could improve. For example, I had written The Curse of Atlantis without ever describing the king’s palace.

With this new knowledge, I have been editing the sequel to The Curse of Atlantis. What I’ve found is that writing no longer feels “easy,” but the results are exciting. I have watched a stagnant writing style foster and grow at a rapid pace. Just like when exercising or practicing a sport, sometimes we have to push ourselves beyond our boundaries just to see how far we can go.

I guess the moral to this story is to be open to criticism. If I had continued to discount the advice because I didn’t understand it, then my writing would never have improved. I think we get this way in life. It’s easy to fall into the routine, accepting it because everything feels easy. We become stagnant and believe this is good because, after all, we aren’t deteriorating. But maybe we should ask ourselves, can I push myself further? Can I go beyond my comfort zone, push myself into the grey areas that may feel uncomfortable? What would happen? Whether it be writing or teaching or whatever, I think we should all strive to improve. We should never settle for something that might be good according to societal standards. Reach for the stars and see what growth may come as a result.