Saturday, September 30, 2017

When Writing, It's the Journey That Matters

By Benjamin Thomas

Part of the How They Do It series

Benjamin Thomas is a husband, father, poet, writer. He's also a book nut, blogger, interviewer, and reviewer. Eternally curious. Still trying to figure out how to bridge the stories in his head onto the page.

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Take it away Benjamin...

What kind of writer are you? What kind of writer will you become five years from now?

These are some of the questions I've asked myself over the last three years. One of the things I've realized after talking to a lot of different authors is that everyone has their own particular process. We all have different personalities, ways of learning, processing information and intuitive ways of writing.

I completed my first NaNoWriMo in 2015 with exultation when I completed the literary equivalent of a marathon, 50k words in 30 days. Shortly after that, my evil twin arrived and said "You can't use that, it's trash. It's a spineless blog without an arc, outline or plot points." At that point I shelved it and began learning story structure, how to outline, diving into the intrinsic meaning of each plot point. Became a voracious reader of books trying to figure out the secret formula of writing. Wondering at every turn when I'll become that next bestseller ninja at the top of the charts. Hah! King of the hill! The moment of achieving storytelling mastery, eagerly awaiting to be knighted a "writer".

I bought writing crafts books galore, consumed audiobooks, podcasts, blog posts, inspirational quotes, read, studied, took copious notes, until I couldn't take it anymore. Ack! Information overload to the third degree.

Eventually I came across some very helpful, yet disturbing quotes along the way.
"We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master."--Ernest Hemingway.
I confess, I hated this quote the first time I read it, and it still somewhat bothers me for some odd reason. It went against everything I'd been striving for the last three years, mastery. Ernest Hemingway seemed to climb out of the grave, smack me in the face and say, "You got it all wrong kid."

The second disturbing quote that seemed to break me in half was from Isaac Asimov. He also seemed to escape the grave saying, "You've really got it all wrong kid." He might've even laughed, I'm not sure.

The great Isaac Asimov died April 6, 1992 when I was still a senior in high school, yet his words came alive to me some twenty odd plus years later.
"It's the writing that teaches you." --Isaac Asimov
These words were deeply inscribed into the subconscious fabric of my mind "It's the writing that teaches you." Surely a lightbulb moment.

I believe we're all taking the same journey, but with different routes to get to the same destination. One may take a private jet. Others may take the train, bus, car, or bike. Some might even walk, yet all will reach their destination. It's a lifelong journey. I wouldn't change anything from those days striving for a microwave mastery of story structure. It's all part of the process.

Desiderius Erasmus says, "The desire to write grows with writing." The more you write, the more you want to write. And as we continue to write, it teaches us what we should know. It's a cycle a wondrous process to be discovered by those who seek it. So admittedly, Hemingway was right. "We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master." Because it has nothing to do with mastery. Perfectionists will have a hard time with this because it's true. There is no "mastery", only a marvelous process. The destination may be the same, yet the terrain, how to get there, may be entirely different with every book we write.

Some internationally bestselling authors outline everything with huge success. Other internationally bestselling authors are more intuitive, organic writers. Both types are wildly popular.

I still don't know what kind of writer I am. Who cares? As long as I'm still writing, that works. What kind of writer we become down the road is more important. We are still writing, and receiving good feedback from our peers, critique partners, beta readers, editors etc. I think the most successful authors have learned to receive constructive criticism whenever necessary. If I'm going to produce my best work, a masterpiece, I'd like more eyes on it for sure.


  1. This text is brilliant. Thanks for sharing these words with us, I met my evil twin too and got drowned on a sea of craft books. Now I'm feeling: lets see where this goes.

    1. YES. Let's see where it goes. I was so caught up in the hype of learning, I wasn't enjoying the process.

  2. I love the quotes. We can be caught up in the writing books. Thanks for bringing this forward, that balance is needed.

  3. "The desire to write grows with writing" I love this! I think it's absolutely true. I feel good when I'm learning all the time. Great post!

  4. Great to see you here Benjamin! What a terrific post - our journey in the writing world does take many twists and turns. I have read a lot of writing craft books, listened to podcasts etc...and have found some of the advice to be confusing and conflicting at times! When that happens, I take a step away, look at what I've learned and see what applies in my situation. But I always remember, the goal is to write. Thanks for your post Benjamin!

  5. Thank you for sharing such an inspiring post. So much of the journey is figuring out what kind of writers we are and learning to accept that there is no right way to be.

  6. A very insightful post. I too am craft-obsessed. I learned a while back that writing advice rarely sticks if I'm not applying it. It's in the edits that I bloom. I still fall down the rabbit hole occasionally, because I do love analyzing good writing technique. So thanks for the reminder to put pen to paper.

  7. Thanks for the reminder. I need to hear this message over and over again!