Thursday, February 11, 2016

How Writers Improve

Lastweek in this spot, Andromeda started an important discussion on the plateaus we encounter as we learn. Writers are forever learning, which means we’ll forever be hitting plateaus.

Eventually, we get past them. We get better—not as quickly as we like, but we do improve. Here’s how:

Ganas: A term popularized among English speakers by math teacher Jaime Escalante, ganas is a desire so strong that giving up is out of the question. You get better because you want it, badly. You’re desperate—so desperate that, paradoxically, despair is out of the question.

Generosity: We get better when we’re generous with ourselves—and with others. Who says a journey must be fast—or easy? Who says progress must be linear? Who says we have to compare ourselves with anyone else? The fruit of generosity is patience.

Wholemindedness: Okay, that’s not really a word. But what I mean is this—when you feel stuck, it’s often because you’ve ceded too much to the analytical parts of your brain. Those parts of the brain are useful—really useful—but given too much control, they stifle the more intuitive parts, where insights and breakthroughs happen.

Openness: All around, we have teachers—books we love, authors we admire. As we’re open, as we pay attention, we learn from them, both by osmosis and by analysis.

Resilience: It’s my first spring in a place where the planting season begins in February, and I admit to being a bit plant-obsessed. But honestly, the most ordinary plant has a tremendous amount to teach us about resilience. The pretty green parts may be up top, but the real work happens below the surface, in the dirt, where roots reach and reach till they get what they’re after. Pruning (in reasoned amounts) only makes the plant stronger. And under stress, it blooms and blooms and blooms.

Co-founder of 49 Writers and founder of the independent authors cooperative Running Fox Books, Deb Vanasse has authored seventeen books. Among the most recent are Write Your Best Book, a practical guide to writing books that rise above the rest; Cold Spell, a novel that “captures the harsh beauty of the terrain as well as the strain of self-doubt and complicated family bonds; and the “deeply researched and richly imagined” biography  Wealth Woman. 

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