This is a blog about my obsessions, whatever they may be.

March 29, 2010



My process involves a lot more thinking and waiting for things to piece themselves together in my little head than I would like.

So I spend a lot of time moaning about how if my writing process was more like how I work out the rest of my life, the world would be a better place for me.


Elizabeth Bear:

I've been meaning to blog for a while on writing-related topics, but you know, the funny thing is, as I get better at this writing gig, it gets harder to find things to talk about. One is that historically I've always blogged about what I was learning, and these days, while I am still learning about writing (and I imagine I always will be) the writing curve is a lot flatter, and a lot more of the skills have moved into the realm of unconscious competence. I can still tap into that knowledge when teaching, editing, or critting, but I'm no longer having to work it out for my own self on a daily basis.
And the stuff I am having to work out is much more arcane and of more limited application.

I’ve tried several times to rephrase this analogy in a more compact way with less back-story, but I’m afraid we’re stuck with this rather clunky one.

My undergraduate education has been in economics, with a focus on econometrics; for those of you who are not so well-acquainted with the dismal science, you may substitute statistics for econometrics.

There are lots of formulas. There are lots of proofs you have to go through to understand why those formulas work (kind of). There are lots and lots of criteria as to when and where you can use those formulas. Lots of little bits you must weigh in the pros/cons columns and then decide what your final method will be.

So finally, you can have a long, erudite and technically complex argument as to why you have done it one way rather than another in your study, but really, it boils down intuition as much as anything else.

It’s the same thing with writing, I bet.

There’s only so much you can learn by reading what other people have written on the subject – or taught etc.

There’s so much more to learn by doing. And so much of learning by doing you cannot learn by having it taught to you.


Recently, I taught a friend to cross-stitch. I bought everything, the chart, fabric, thread, needle and frame.

I sat her down, and gave her the basics. I barely managed to restrain myself to the basics. I itched to discuss railroading, linen vs Aida, cotton vs silk, stretch frame vs scroll frame vs Q-snaps vs hoop vs in-hand.

At its very basic, cross-stitch is simply the physical act of making little crosses with needle and thread on a ground (fabric).

Similarly, writing is stringing words together. A monkey could do it. But it doesn’t mean a monkey could do it well.


There are lessons to be learnt each day in doing, and each day in doing, one internalises both those lessons and the lessons one has learnt from classes, critiques etc.

That internalising is what makes for effortless excellence.

No comments:

Post a Comment