A creative endeavor is a never-ending journey. It can be frustrating. You write and write and work and work but to what end? You will never finish. Ever. Never ever.
How’d that feel to read?
A. The never-ending journey is a daunting, exhausting sisyphean task. The boulder will never just sit flat on top of that friggin’ mountain.
Or, B. The pursuit of mastery is a quest for growth, new understanding of the craft, and more advanced application of that craft. It gets better and better.
B seems the healthier perspective. Inherent in any qualitative pursuit is the goal of mastery.
Keeping positive about a never ending task can be difficult. One method is to use healthy competition. Everyone reacts to competition in a different way. For some, it’s an opportunity to measure one’s skill and maybe show off something they’re proud of. For others –those incapable of discerning defeat from death — it turns them into snarling rage-beasts. Competition should never be about the opposition, but rather about yourself. Competition is a tool to gauge where you are now, and how far away your goal is. Competition lets you mark, surpass, and then set new goals.
Ultimately there may be cash prizes and publication involved, but start smaller. Small competitions — competitions with yourself or with your fellow writers — can give you just the push you need to improve. Make a bet with a friend to finish a poem by next Friday. See how you do. Writing has no finish line. There is no maximum score. Constant growth, new understanding, and application of craftsmanship is your prize, and the prize is the journey.
Bakers, theoretical astrophysicists, and writers all have the same goal in mind: mastery. Let your victories and losses mark the path of your eternal journey. Then keep going.
“Writing is a profession you can practice while upside down and experiencing total blackout in a cave. You just use the mental recorder instead of pen and paper … or portable … and hope you find a use for the experience.”
— C. J. Cherryh
“It has to be learned, but it can’t be taught. This bunkum and stinkum of college creative writing courses! The academics don’t know that the only thing you can do for someone who wants to write is to buy him a typewriter.”
— James M. Cain