Professional Growth

Walking the path of mastery- How to get better at writing (and every other talent)

path to mastery
Written by Moritz Schröder

The way I write these blog posts always follows a certain routine.

I have an idea for a topic, normally in very raw form.

I sit down on my bed and flip my laptop open.

I get rid of every distraction. No phone, no music, no Facebook, nothing.

And then I sit there and stare at the blank page in front of me.

Usually nothing happens for about 30 minutes after that. I sit, I stare, I organize the thoughts in my head. I know what I want to say, but it is only a vague feeling rather than a clear idea. It is the feeling that there is something there, hidden in the back of my mind, waiting to be discovered by me. But putting these thoughts into words and pinning them down onto paper can be a very long and painful process.

Stories are found things, like fossils in the ground … Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible. Sometimes the fossil you uncover is small; a seashell. Sometimes it’s enormous, a Tyrannosaurus Rex with all the gigantic ribs and grinning teeth. Either way, short story or thousand page whopper of a novel, the techniques of excavation remain basically the same. – Stephen King

Often the thoughts seem so close, they are on the tip of my tongue, yet I am still not able to express them in a way that does them justice. I struggle with words, I form them into sentences in my head and discard them again. The longer I passively sit around, the more agitated I become.

Eventually I start writing just to escape the growing frustration inside of me.

I type a couple of sentences and I fucking hate them. They don’t give a good introduction into the post, they don’t express what I am trying to say, and they don’t seem to fit together properly. They just don’t feel right. But instead of being bothered by that, I just plow through it and keep writing.

Usually somewhere in the second paragraph, I suddenly write a sentence that I actually kinda like. It may still be isolated, framed by bad sentences before and after, but it shows me that I am on the right track.

As I keep writing, the sentences keep coming easier and easier. They stop feeling forced and instead start to come to my mind with ease. Furthermore, I begin to see them no longer as individual sentences, but rather as small parts of a bigger picture. They all have a purpose in the overall impression that the text is supposed to make in the end, and I just discover that purpose as I write.

The more I get into the flow state of writing, the harder it is to keep up with the words that I type. I often write a sentence, while in my mind I am already three sentences ahead. This is what I love most about writing. After struggling with single words, sometimes for hours, and not being able to formulate even one phrase that is truly on point, suddenly something just “clicks” and all the thoughts that were hidden so well in the back of my head come flooding out without any effort.

Once I am done writing my text, I normally have to re-write the first part of it. It just doesn’t match the rest of the text at all. It is obvious that I tried to force something there without really feeling it. But in a sense, this “forcing it” is the most important step of the entire process. It allows me to push through that barrier in my mind, it forces me to overcome the resistance that keeps me from expressing my thoughts. And once I am past that point, it is no problem to change the parts that originally felt forced.

This is how I write these blog posts. I broke it down in such details in order to demonstrate how much work goes into it. I do believe that I have a bit of a talent when it comes to writing, but by no means does it come easy to me! I don’t sit down, bang out a 1000 words in an hour and then move on! Instead it is always a struggle, but it is the struggle that I enjoy most, more even than the end result!

This is the attitude that is necessary with every craft that you want to master. You have to be able to embrace the struggle. You have to love the path to mastery more than mastery itself, regardless of all the pain and setbacks and failures and disappointments along the way. You can get a bit of a head start on this path if you find that you have a talent in a certain field that sets you apart from others. But it is still nothing more than a slight advantage. To truly walk the path of mastery, you have to stop relying on your talent and start developing your skills! I do that in the field of writing- at least for now- by beating on the craft, and failing, and fucking up, and hating the words that come out, and being angry with myself, until I finally produce a post that is somewhat decent. But which field you choose for your path of mastery truly doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you keep walking it.


Published in Professional Growth

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