July 14, 2018
WHAT WRITING TAKES
This piece is written by Mikaela Dizon, our guest writer in Write Things.
WHAT WRITING TAKES
It’s a common belief that to become good at something—to be able to strive at something—you need talent. Why is this something that we need to engrave in our minds? Why do we need to put barriers around our capabilities and limit ourselves? The truth is: we don’t need to do so. Even until today, there’s no alternative to getting rid of that turbulent thugging in my chest with each closed door that I dare to open, except for actually opening it and stepping into the unknown.
Of course, talent should never be taken for granted, but it’s also important to be able to draw a line between the values (hard work, etc.) that will get us places and the values that will hinder us from getting to where we want to be. So although I’ve never put it down on paper before, there are three values that I always keep in mind when writing. The first is effort. If you want to write, the first step is to try. Writing is just like going on a hike: Sure, at the foot of the mountain, the climb looks unendurable. Once you’ve made it some steps up, that’s when you’ll be able to tell yourself: “I can do it.” Getting that first paragraph done when writing a piece is what helps you believe in yourself.
However I’ve never gotten to the top of any mountain by simply trying: I’ve also learned that you have to be able to sustain the quality of your written works until the end. With every drop of sweat you shed, you have to gain back enough energy to say: “I can do better.” Thus, the second value that I keep in mind is perseverance. At this point when writing, I always tell myself to forget writing like an expert for the moment because it’s finishing my piece that counts. And it’s true — how will you be able to edit your written work if there is no written work to edit? It helps me to use that feeling of victory, to imagine reaching the top of the mountain, feeling satisfied not only because I finally made it but because the climb was worth it. A few minutes or hours of rapid typing go buy and when I next look up from my glaring laptop screen, I often realize I’ve nearly reached the end of my journey: my piece is almost complete.
Still, after putting in hard work (and then resting and recharging as necessary), you have to get down from the mountain. This is why the last value is guidance. Editing your work is never an easy feat alone. Since you’re the writer, maybe you have biases. Since you’re the writer, maybe there are things that you’ve been skipping over. Asking for help doesn’t mean that you’ve reached a difficult point on the hike and injured yourself—it means you’re sensible enough to recognize that the qualities and attitudes of those around you can only be to your benefit. And there are various ways to ask for help—you can join a writing class and ask your peers or teachers for help; you can join a literary group; you can ask your friends for honest opinions.
What writing takes is not only talent, not only bravery, but also effort, and perseverance, and guidance. Without these values you may find yourself standing behind a door—one that is open and staring into the pitch-black unknown—never being able to step past it, even though a bucket of gold at the end of some rainbow awaits you.
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