Making the Same Mistakes

by MDY

I haven’t been writing well lately. I find myself repeating the errata of my younger self: telling not showing; over-complicated plot settings; dialogue. I’ve been struggling particularly with action-based pieces: the sort where war amputees fend off zombies, or young girls hunt down vampires. “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” Fast-paced plot used to be one of my strengths, but it seems to have atrophied out of years of disuse and more touchy-feely pieces. “Use it or lose it.” My work (as in professional work, not literary oeuvre) is suffering too: I repeat myself, obfuscate, resort to gross similes where I should be aiming for precision. But unlike in my personal life, these mistakes reflect a desire to change rather than an inability to do so.

It’d be all too easy to get comfortable in “my style”, in writing the way I’ve become good at doing. But I want to write stories with both flamethrowers and heart. I need to stop relying on description and metaphor to prop up my characters. Writing is an act of retrospective: you only realise what you’ve done when you read it back, never during the writing itself. Which means suffering through the same mistakes, again and again, until you can find a better way or make one. It’s an inefficient but ultimately edifying process. In all probability, the only thing harder than righting your writing is righting your self.