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From Writer to Published: Craft & Creative Mastery

Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

You want to publish your book.

Whether you’re writing your first or fifth book, you fantasize about finishing that book, getting it into the hands and hearts of people who need it, and what might happen to your life and sense of fulfillment as a writer once that book is “out there.”

But you feel a tension. This tension is the gap between what you currently know and what your skill set is a present, versus what you might need to know and be able to do and create in order to reach that place you fantasize about.

That gap in knowledge can feel like a chasm.

That chasm’s enormity can take your breath away.

The self-masochism begins.

You can feel intimidated, inadequate and isolated. You shut down, try to ignore what feels like a fantasy, and go on about your daily business of checking off your to-do list and answering emails.

Here’s a curious thing: Amateurs aren’t the only ones who face this Chasm.

People with post-graduate training in writing, who’ve published books, who’ve accomplished great things within their fields feel inadequate at times, too.

A couple of years ago, I had coffee with and asked the writer’s writer Charlie Baxter this question: “In which novel while you were writing it did you feel as if you were never going to get through it, as if you had set yourself up for too many complications to unravel?”

He chuckled. “Every one of them.” Then he paused. “Except for maybe the first one, which kind of felt like a romance, maybe because I was too naive to know any better.”

“How do you get through that middle?” I asked.

“One sentence at a time,” he said. “I try to make every sentence the best possible sentence.”

This focus is the writer’s humble focus on creative mastery.

You find meaning in this pursuit of craft knowledge. Craft knowledge expands self-knowledge because your attention is not fixated on your own inadequacies. It’s focused on potentially delightful and challenging aspects of your art.

So what if you can transmute that inadequacy into curiosity about craft and creative mastery?

Avoid simply repeating things such as “I’m a good writer” or “I’m a good enough writer.” That’s counter-productive. It’s also a poor model for education – formal education or self-education.

Instead, acknowledge the skill inadequacy or cognitive inadequacy and get curious.

I suck at numbers and spreadsheets, but when I met someone recently who sees the world passionately through those lenses, I got curious. I wondered what one or two skills or mindset habits related to numbers or spreadsheets I might build.

If you are staring down the Inadequacy Chasm, get curious about craft.

  • What skills could you learn that might expand your wits and artfulness?
  • What could you learn and how might you learn it that might bust some biases and well-worn ways of viewing yourself?
  • How can you grow an apprentice’s heart again?

I recently met a seasoned Silicon Valley entrepreneur. He has a new venture idea, but no one around him could understand his idea. He acknowledged his inadequacies and sought help in how to phrase and frame his premise.

It’s that very humility in admitting what we do not know and can still willingly if not achingly learn that in part makes, not ironically, the master’s heart and mind and soul.

Otherwise, we get stuck in the expert’s trap and and cannot free our artful magnificence.

You can derive incomparable meaning in stretching your creative wits with the right challenge.
And if via the book you write you reward other people with meaningful experiences – that in turn may also contribute to your right livelihood – well, that is an incomparable wonder.

How can you open your apprentice’s mind and heart? What skill or skills could you get curious about that could transmute that near-unconscious inadequacy into self-propelling curiosity into the world of craft?

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