The biggest criticism I have about writers actually has nothing to do with them. It’s that, by the time they become a public name, their journey is complete. As readers, we rarely see the actual hard work leading there, only the result. Sure, when I tell people I am published, they acknowledge the challenge. However, I think most believe the difficulty comes from the competition and rejection. Most don’t consider the writer’s ability from start to finish. I know I didn’t, and I am the one going through the process. Because we don’t see the writer’s development, we think authors are born. They just decide one day to write and the bestseller pops out. Selling it was their only challenge.
I think this is partly true. The successful authors—the ones who not only finish their book but also are able to gain a following—have an inherited talent. But, that talent still has to be developed. Because I have no examples in the writing field, let me compare it to the talent reality shows currently playing. My favorites are The Voice, So You Think You can Dance and Master Chef. Each of these shows begins the same: the auditions. Millions try out. In fact, most shows love the panoramic shot depicting the crowd of hopeful contestants. It is talent that gets these people through the auditions. It is what gets them noticed. Sure, there are some who came without any previous training, but most have trained before auditioning. Regardless of their background, during the course of the show, these individuals are exposed to the best in their business. And, the ones who go on to be successful on the show learn and grow from the experts.
Writers are no different. I learned a lot from reading other people’s work. But I grew the most when I started focusing on honing my skill. I joined creative writing courses and critique groups. I discussed before the importance of choosing the right group. Just like any other training, there are some that may actually destroy someone’s ability. Writers can lose the unique voice that makes them good. They can lose their confidence and even pick up horrible habits. It’s important to choose training wisely. But, it is still necessary. No one is going to wake up one day and crank out the perfect novel. In fact, most writers I do research wrote two or three novels before one got picked up. Even Stephen King started somewhere. He focused on short stories. Others took a similar route writing for magazines.
There are those rare writers whose first book made it to the big time. But, I wonder if they had actually never ever dabbled in writing before that book. My guess would be they had. Training is necessary. Without it a writer will become stagnant. And, in a world with millions of people who want to publish, competition is too great to accept good-enough. So push for the best and never settle.