As writers we always try to improve our craft. We subscribe to magazines and read blogs and articles on how we can get better. We spend hours on social media websites promoting our latest blog series or stumping for a guest posting gig. We read in our niche so we can keep current on trends.
The problem is when we allow all of this to take the place of the most important aspect of being a writer: actually putting words on paper.
Søren Kierkegaard tells us a parable about geese:
"Try to imagine for a moment that geese could talk—that they had so arranged things that they too had their divine worship and their church-going.
Every Sunday they would meet together and a gander would preach.
The sermon was essentially the same each time—it told of the glorious destiny of geese, of the noble end for which their maker had created them—and every time his name was mentioned all the geese curtsied and all the ganders bowed their heads. They were to use their wings to fly away to the distant pastures to which they really belonged; for they were only pilgrims on this earth.
The same thing happened each Sunday. Thereupon the meeting broke up and they all waddled home, only to meet again next Sunday for divine worship and waddle off home again—but that was as far as they ever got. They throve and grew fat, plump and delicious."
If we are not careful we as writers can be just like these geese, always hearing that we should take our writing and soar. We bow our heads and say “yes, yes” and then we waddle on our way doing the same things over and over again.
The key to moving your writing career forward is not just learning all you can about your craft, but actually putting words on paper, day after day, week after week. If you are like me you might complete a project and sit back with a heavy sigh of relief and a satisfied feeling of a job well done. I pat myself on the back and think of rewarding myself and relaxing a bit.
The problem with this is that I fail to pick up the next thread. In order to soar we must flap our wings continually until we get some altitude. One or two flaps aren’t going to do it, or even ten or fifteen. We have to beat our wings (put words on paper) many, many times in order to get some lift under us.
When you get some altitude under you, you can afford to quit flapping for a bit and do all those other things besides writing that are required to be a really successful writer. Just remember, if you aren’t writing you are losing altitude.