Last year I decided to read a book that had been sitting on my shelf for some time, Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular by Rust Hills. The copy turned out to have mold or something growing in it, so out that went! When a cheap copy came in from Amazon, I finally began the book in the hopes of becoming a better writer.
Hills’ writing style isn’t too impressive, but he spent years editing short stories for a magazine so it’s worth listening to what he says about the subject. The book covers a wide range of topics in a short amount of time. Everything you would need to know to become a better fiction writer, he covers: themes, plot development, point-of-view, dialogue, anything you can think of. As I read I compared his tips to how I wrote. Do I employ these tools? What could I try in my next story?
The fact that I was even giving the book a chance was a big step for me. When I discovered my knack for writing, I considered myself something of a prodigy. It came so natural and my peers seemed to enjoy it. The idea of taking a class or reading a book specifically on writing was beneath me. Why should I?
But we’ve all heard some quote from some sage in times gone by that a wise person is always learning. When your mind transforms from a sponge to a stone, you’re being foolish. As I get older, I start seeing the truth of this more and more. I picked up the book because I wanted to hone my craft; I admitted I didn’t know everything and there was room for improvement.
And as I read and opened my mind, I did learn. I gained new perspectives on writing styles and techniques. I was also encouraged and felt affirmation as I noted things I already did. Certain ways of writing, that I was unaware of doing, suddenly gained a name.
We should always be learning, whether we are content in our place in life or desiring something better. But learning requires humility. If I can’t admit my lack of knowledge on a subject, I can’t fill the void. Perhaps in this young year, you have resolutions to be a better person. Without humility and a willingness to learn, that will be harder to accomplish.