With NANOWRIMO around the corner, I wanted to give my opinion about why I’ve chosen not to participate in it this year. I haven’t figured out exactly how to voice that opinion yet but I will get back to you next week. I was, however, struck with another idea that I’m much more attracted to. Below is an essay/rant that I’m calling “Accepting the Apprentice’s Call”.
It’s time for me to face some facts. I am still a beginner. I’ve only been writing consistently for about a year now. I’ve improved within that time, which is expected. This fact is evident from my first work to my most recent work. There’s a similar voice between the two works, sure, but things have improved a bit. But my journey thus far has been a haphazard collection of lessons with no real inter-connectivity. I just learned what needed to write longer and better works. That isn’t to say that there isn’t some merit to the effort I’ve put in, but my path towards masterful writing has not been effective.
If you’ve been following my Write-Up Wednesday series, you’ve learned that I’ve been reading (I actually just finished) a book called “The Art of Slow Writing“. I can’t vouch for this book enough, especially for beginners like me. But there is a section in particular I’d like to focus on: Apprenticeship. DeSalvo points out “[Virginia] Woolf improved her prose by setting herself reading programs .” But, “She didn’t just read; she read with pen in hand to improve her work. She read to learn how to write scenes, describe landscape, construct image patterns, depict the passage of time. She kept notebooks in which she evaluated what she read and copied passages that helped her learn her craft.” Virginia Woolf was deliberate in her pursuit of becoming a better writer. Though she mightn’t have had a mentor, she found mentorship among the works she read.
I intend to do the same. Although I read frequently, I didn’t do it deliberately to learn how to write. Reading a work slowly with a pen and notebook next to me, taking notes and copying down well-written passages, these things are crucial in my next stage of growth. I plan on reading/re-reading the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Haruki Murakami, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, I’ll continue my reading of classics and I’ll even venture beyond into genre fiction. There is a wealth of information for me to learn from but I’ve got to do this slowly noting anything that strikes me. This, actually, is also what my fiction analysis posts on Fridays are for. From these analyses I get a deeper look into why a passage that stuck a chord in me did so. Eventually with enough practice I’ll learn how to do the same thing.
Modern apprenticeships last between three to six years wherein, if completed in a competent manner, they become a journeyman. Journeymen possess are the competencies that someone employed in their respective field is expected to have. I am accepting this call. I am a beginner, an amateur and I may never reach the ranks of a competent writer (just as apprentices mightn’t be able to in other fields.) But if everything goes as planned, I suspect my writing apprenticeship will last between 4-7 years. At the end of this time, I will have refined my craft and expanded my talents. There’s no telling if a major work or master craft will come out of this apprenticeship but I will be working harder than before. My stories will be told with a more delicate eye for attention and I’ll become less heavy-handed with themes. I might not ever become a successful writer but I will for damn sure put in successful writer amounts of effort.