The positive response I got to last week’s post, Give Yourself A Break, has prompted me to think about what writers want to hear. And I guess it’s the same thing we all want to hear: That we are doing well, we are on the right track, we are going to meet and exceed our goals, and that we will go on to become rich and famous someday. Well, not all of us aspire to the rich and famous part, but you get the idea.
I recently found this aspiring writer’s blog, which I think offers an honest perspective on writing matters from the trenches. In particular, I was drawn to her discussion about instinct versus skill as pertains to writing. I think that good writing is a sometimes dysfunctional relationship between instinct and skill, and the right combination of the two is what makes great writers great. Like anyone with a natural talent–for writing, sports, dance, music, whatever–that talent needs to be nurtured, applied, refined, and crafted in order to bring out its greatest potential. It’s part of the reason why the best writers are also often the hardest working. The ones willing to take criticism, use constructive feedback to better their “performance”, read and research what others in their field are doing (both those who’ve succeeded and those who’ve failed, as there are important lessons to be learned from each), are often the ones who excel and improve and can have careers with great highs, plus the ability to overcome the inevitable lows. The writers who fuss, moan, and take out their frustrations in their work don’t get very far.
So, I think it’s worth pointing out that all writers should start with their instincts and then apply their skills to their craft. Just when you’ve become comfortable and feel like you’re at the top of your game, that’s the perfect time to start learning new skills, and rethinking your instincts (if that’s even possible) in order to stretch yourself even more.
What do you think? Is it instinct or skill that makes or breaks great writers?