Monday, January 29, 2018

What if “better writer” was the journey and not the destination?

By David Rawlings (@DavidJRawlings)

Every writer under the sun wants to be a better writer.

Each of us has the carrot of being a better writer dangling a few feet in front of us, always out of reach. Even those whose names grace our bookshelves – including the ones whose names feature again and again – want to get there. In fact, the best writers never stop reaching for being a better writer.

So apart from the usual advice – you know, you need to do 10,000 hours before you become an expert – how do you actually get there? Surely it’s more than “keep practising?”

Here’s another way of thinking about that: what if “better writer” was the journey and not the destination? As I’ve continued to develop my writing skills, I’ve spoken to countless authors and read everything I can get my hands on when it comes to what I need to reach the Holy Grail of being a “better writer”.

Treating the drive to be a better writer as the journey does something inside my head. Once I start to think about improving and developing as I go, it does a number of things:
  • Take the pressure off. If you realise you are always becoming a better writer, rather than short of your elusive goal, it can take pressure off you. I know it has with me. Any improvement is an achievement, not step #5 in a 5,000-step process.
  • Help you to enjoy the journey. I’ve found when I travel that if you focus too much on the destination, it can make the journey seem like something to be endured, not enjoyed. And I want to enjoy this journey - I'm putting so much of myself into it.
  • Realise your improvement is a constant, not a goal. I set out on my writing journey thinking if I learned enough things, I’d eventually make it. But it’s not that. I’ve learned you need to keep learning.
  • Puts my earlier efforts into context. I look back on my first manuscript, or my first draft of my current WIP, with different eyes. It’s no longer a poor first effort, it’s now the best I could have done AT THAT STAGE OF MY DEVELOPMENT. And now I’ve developed beyond that. 
 So that’s why I now view being a "better writer" as a journey. How does that sit with you?

About David Rawlings

Based in Adelaide, South Australia, I am a sports-mad, married father-of-three with my own copywriting/communication business who reads everything within an arm’s reach.

I can see a typo from across the room and always – always – make sure my text messages are grammatically correct. My manuscripts have finalled in the ACFW's Genesis competitions and the OCW's Cascade Awards.

And now I'm working with the Steve Laube Agency as my agent to find that elusive first publisher.


  1. Great perspective. I love the idea of being constant learners and that improvement is a process. I can see this is in my writing journey and am always on the look out for ways to get better at my craft.

    Loved this piece, David.

    1. Thanks Elaine. I've found so much pressure has lifted when I've realised I will always be learning.!

  2. Enjoyed the post, David. I agree that in a sense we are always raising the bar, always reinventing ourselves. It's when we aren't producing that we become stagnant.

    1. Appreciate it Deirdre. That's a good phrase ... reinventing ourselves. We have to in a creative sense to ensure we are always challenging ourselves. I know I am!

  3. Good reminder, David. And a beauty to read at the beginning of a year.

    One of the things Fiona and I always do when planning a holiday is to ensure we treat the journey to the destination as a key part of the holiday. It might be the initial flight over or going from one place to another place. We don't treat the 'travel-bit' as something less than the 'place-bit.' Like our writing, appreciating each stage of the process/journey, helps to both maximise the stage even if at times it may not be so enjoyable, eg, killing a darling through the edit.

    It's true for our faith too, isn't it? God wants us to know Him more and more and this can happen at any time not just at "big" moments like conferences or retreats.

  4. Now that you mention it... LOL
    Toward the end of last year I had to 'revisit' the first novel in the series I had almost completed.
    You are absolutely correct. It was not the same as the way I write now. (I had to do another edition) Yes, if we look back we can see how far we have come. The journey onward is more hopeful when it IS a journey.
    Thank you for this post!

    1. A pleasure Susan. It just struck me when I was looking back at a first draft just how far I'd come in terms of deepening and developing the story, and then the realisation it wasn't bad, it was just early. The rest of the blog post flowed from there ...

  5. Love this post, David :) I’ve enjoyed my writing journey, with all its twists and turns, and I appreciate opportunities to learn new writing skills. I also love seeing other writers doing well, and I celebrate the achievements in their unique writing journeys.

    1. Me too Narelle. It helps me to remember that the slow times aren't a lack of progress, they may jjust be chances to stop and take a breath, or look around. :)

  6. Excellent reminder, David. And your perspective does take off the pressure and the disappointment we can feel when we don't reach certain of our goals. We are a work in progress, and I'm so thankful our Creator God made us this way.

  7. It's always a journey, David. Sometimes a rocky one, but i wouldn't miss it!