On (Not) Closing the Skill Gap

Photo credit: Rsms
Today I'm thinking about writing and how there's always more to learn. How there's a perception gap between the words that flow on the page when you're first drafting and the quality of words you want on the page as you go.

I'm thinking about the e-mails and comments I get about writers, especially new writers, paralyzed by their own perceived skill level. How they recognize that the words they're putting on the page aren't as good as they imagined—and how that realization can be paralyzing.

I'm thinking about how sometimes, it doesn't matter what words you put on the page, because they always feel not right. Not good. Not even remotely worth being proud of.

The truth is, this happens to everyone. With new writers, it often happens because the words they're writing don't come close to matching up the words they're reading, and they recognize that gap between what is publishable and what is not. With experienced writers it happens too, because after working on polished manuscripts for so long, it can be really, really hard to go back to those raw, uncut first draft words. It can be hard to remember those polished manuscripts didn't start off polished—it can feel like going back to step one.

It can also feel like taking the steps necessary to get to the end result is impossible.

The thing is, closing the skill gap completely is impossible—and it should be. Because once the gap is closed, once there isn't better writing to strive for, once there's no reason to push yourself because the words are good enough, you've stopped learning. You've plateaued.

Artists and creative types—and yes, that means writers—should never stop learning. It's kind of a great thing about art—you can't even reach a place where you have nothing more to learn, nothing new to try, no real way to push yourself. It means you can keep pushing harder, keep getting better, keep watching your art evolve and evolve and evolve. And it's wonderful—but some days, it's also hard.

This post isn't really a cure for anything, but I do want to say on those days you're struggling, the best thing you can do is keep getting words down. Keep reminding yourself that, in a way, it's a good thing that you recognize your writing isn't great from the get-go—because it means you recognize how you could continue to improve and push yourself. Because it means when time comes to revise, you'll be ready to go.

You'll never close the skill gap, not really. But you should never want to, either—because there will always be room for you to explore and grow and further develop your skills as a writer. And as hard as it is, it's good, too.

So get out there and keep writing.

Have you ever experienced the skill gap?

Twitter-sized bite:
On the gap between your writing and what you want it to be. (Click to tweet)

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