Writer's Survival Guide 28: Improve, Stagnate, or Decline
My favorite NFL team is the Detroit Lions. For the last two decades, the Lions struggled. They rotated through coaches, players, and they could not find a way to win. Every season ended with frustration. Fans wondered why? Why can't this team get it together and win?
Coach Jim Schwartz took over four years ago. He brought a fresh enthusiasm to the role, and, with a first round, first pick quarterback--Matthew Stafford--fans waited in hopeful anticipation that the Lions would turn around.
It took time, patience in the face of injuries, more smart draft picks, but last season, the Lions actually made it to the playoffs. It looked as if the rough years were finally behind them. Surely, they would continue to improve, to advance, and maybe even make it to the Superbowl at some point?
This season the Lions are struggling. They're plagued by penalties and they don't look like a cohesive unit. Many experts say the team lacks discipline at the coaching level. Off the field, there have been arrests and poor behavior. Needless to say, if a team can't win games, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for them to make it to the playoffs this year.
Football is a tough sport. Many factors go into what makes a winning team. And nothing guarantees they keep their spot at or near the top.
Writers face the same challenges. Whether we, like the Lions, struggle for years before finding success, or we find success quickly, we have to mentally outfit ourselves to write strong.
One writing myth is that at some point we won't have to work as hard. We'll "write that perfect first draft" or, since readers loved our last book, they'll automatically love our subsequent books. This is dangerous thinking. We, like football teams, have to continuously work hard to make our books shine. We have to be disciplined, humble yet confident, and we can't take anything for granted or we risk stagnating and declining.
Writers have to push themselves to continue advancing in their career.
We can never get complacent with our writing. Writing shouldn't be easy. Each book should challenge us--force us to examine exactly why we're writing it.
I'm not saying writing isn't fun, rewarding, or any other wonderful things. It is. But if we stop examining our work for good plot structure, conflict, pace, grammar, and characterization because we think the work we did in the past was good enough, well, we're on our way to stagnating and declining.
Every book gives us a chance to improve our writing.
What do you think? Is there ever a time we can stop examining our books and still be assured they're good?
Have a terrific day!