The First Thing
I’ve been thinking a lot about craft lately, and what I’ve decided is that the first thing a writer needs to do is forget about it. Craft should never be the first thing on your mind. The first thing on a writer’s mind should be, “What do I most want to share?”
This may seem axiomatic, but until you have something you very much want to share with someone else, all the craft in the world is going to be useless to you. You are better off writing a sloppy story that you love than a pristine story that you don’t care about at all. Sloppiness can be cleaned up; you cannot, however, make yourself love something you do not already love.
Of course, once you have something you actually want to share, then you bring in your craft. Only now the craft will arrive not to prove what a clever or professional writer you are, not to make you seem impressive to your writer’s group, but to facilitate the translation of an idea that is known only to you into an idea that is sharable with someone else. Now you should bring all your craft to bear because if you have something you feel is worth sharing, your craft will help you share it with as many people as possible.
And if you don’t believe your work should be understood by as many people as possible, or that it can’t be understood by more than a select few, I would recommend writing something else. Nothing will ever be understood, or laughed at, or appreciated by everyone, but if you have something valuable to share, why shroud it in obscurity? Why keep it from the world? We are all on a constant hunt for the next better thing, and somewhere there is someone for whom your idea is that next better thing.
So set it free. Release it to the world so it can do as much good for someone else as it did for you, and let your craft reveal not how well you’ve learned to write, but what you love the most.