It doesn’t matter how many novels you write. It doesn’t how many stories you’ve crafted from start to finish. Nothing will fully prepare you for the next story or the next novel. That’s not to say experience isn’t a factor. I’ve learned a lot from the repeated process. There are mistakes I made in my first stories that I am appalled to think about because I never would make them now.
Still, as much as I’ve learned, as many novels as I’ve tackled, I still find myself struggling with stories. Even with some of the basic aspects. Even with the simple act of making myself write.
We’re always growing as artists, as writers, (or we should be), but there hasn’t come a point yet, at least in my experience, where the hard work of it all disappears, where it becomes perfectly natural.
I’ve got a lot of stories and a half dozen, full-length novels under my belt. In many ways, I am very experienced writer. But even with all that, I still find myself doubting my process, my talent, my everything. Even with all my experience, I still find that it takes effort, which isn’t bad, but is till, somehow, unexpected.
Because we’re supposed to be getting better. That’s how things work. You practice and practice and practice and eventually you’ve mastered it. Right?
Only that’s not how it works. As soon as I wrote it out I knew that’s not how it works. We think it is. We want it to be. But what skill, what art can you name where once you’ve reached a certain skill level you no longer have to try?
Oh, things become easier. Certain parts become natural, almost instinct. But you never learn everything, even if you do learn everything.
Because no matter how many times you’ve created before, there’s always something new. That’s the point of creativity, making something that wasn’t there before. You may have painted a million paintings but you haven’t painted this next one. There might be similarities, commonalities, but it will be unique.
No matter how many novels I’ve written, I’ve never written this novel, and I’ve never written the novel after that. Each story is a new experience.
I’ve personally written science fiction, fantasy, romance, and historical fiction, but even if I never ventured outside one genre, I still would be faced by new and different experiences every time I sat down to write. Even if I only ever wrote in a single universe, a single series, I would have to tackle unique plots and characters.
Unless I sat down at my computer and wrote the exact same story over and over again, I could never have the same writing experience. I’m not even sure if that method would work. I’ve written and rewritten enough times to know even the attempt to write the same story fails. Something new is always born.
And I’m beginning to see the source of that. Inspiration, the creative art, is always changing. So are we.
I can’t write the same story because the story is going to be different, and both the cause and corollary to that is that I am different. I’m not the exact same writer, I’m not the same person I was yesterday. I’m fairly certain I’m not the same Douglas I was this morning. Every experience changes me. Every novel I write makes me a different sort of novelist than I was before that. That ensures I won’t have the same experience writing a novel because I’m not the same writer who experienced it the first time.
I won’t make the same mistakes as my early work because I’ve already made those mistakes. Which is comforting to think. But, at the same time, I’ll likely have completely new ones to deal with.
I’m learning all art is like that. Every creative endeavor is a journey into uncharted territory. Where no one has gone before.
And I don’t think we would have it any other way.
(Image by Chaitra: http://itspinkpot.com/creative-convex)