I see so many books, articles, blog posts, tweets, you name it, all geared towards helping us be better writers. When I first started writing, I read everything in this department that I could. I thought, justifiably, that there are a lot of other people in the world who have been writing longer than I have and must have some useful information for me that will help me grow.
Sometimes that’s true. But it’s more common that it’s complete garbage–an advertisement for writing more than anything of substance. And as time went on, and I began to skim these things rather than read them, I came to realize that many of these people are not writers. They are hobbyists or people who want to be writers. Not the same thing.
Now, to be clear, there is nothing wrong with that. But as someone who takes writing seriously, who knows that writing is more than something I do–but rather, it is me, and integral part of who I am and what I am here for–I have learned that for me personally, I read excellent works by writers I admire. And I write. And that’s it.
A lot of people like to talk at length about writing. In the end, talking about writing doesn’t get you anywhere.
There is no substitution for learning the craft by practicing it. Period.
This is an excerpt from one of my all-time favorite books, No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. Every time I read it I get a little chill. A master of prose, is Mr. McCarthy! If you haven’t read this book yet, do yourself a favor.
You all gettin any rain up your way? the proprietor said.
Which way would that be?
I seen you was from Dallas.
Chigurh picked his change up off the counter. And what business is it of yours where I’m from, friendo?
I didnt mean nothin by it.
You didnt mean nothing by it.
I was just passin the time of day.
I guess that passes for manners in your cracker view of things.
Well sir, I apologized. If you dont want to accept my apology I dont know what else I can do for you.
How much are these?
I said how much are these.
Chigurh unfolded a dollar onto the counter. The man rang it up and stacked the change before him the way a dealer places chips. Chigurh hadnt taken his eyes from him. The man looked away. He coughed. Chigurh opened the plastic package of cashews with his teeth and doled a third part of them into his palm and stood eating.
Will there be somethin else? the man said.
I dont know. Will there?
Is there somethin wrong?
Is that what you’re asking me? Is there something wrong with anything.