Writing is one of my passions. Another passion is teaching. Primarily, I teach piano and violin lessons. Throughout the years, I have had students that were difficult to teach. It was not because they didn’t have talent or ability—many of these students had a great potential they could have reached. But they would struggle in the same area for months—not because I didn’t give them solutions or didn’t work with them through problems, but because they never applied the solutions to themselves. They enjoyed where they were as a musician and didn’t really aspire to be much more than where they were.
So why am I mentioning this to a group of writers? Because recently, I have found myself exhibit the tendencies that I’ve seen in my students: an unteachable spirit. This one thing is powerful enough to keep us back from reaching our full potential, no matter what subject we are trying to learn.
Lately, I have been pondering a few questions in my writing life.
Am I Content Where I Am?
With each manuscript I finish—whether long or short—I usually learn something about the writing craft. 95% of the time, my learning comes through suggestions that others make for my manuscript. Many times, I have to prayerfully consider the changes. Why? Because I’m not content to just churn out a story. I want to utilize the ideas, talents, and abilities that God has given me to my fullest extent—but as long as I’m satisfied with my manuscript, I can’t move forward.
Will I Make an Effort to Learn More?
If I’m not content with where I am today as a writer, then will I do something about it? One of my goals for 2018 is to read ten books on the writing craft. While my beta readers may offer good advice, there are many other successful writers out there who know a lot more than I do. Sure, there are many other books I’d gravitate toward reading, but if I don’t put forth the effort to learn what other authors have to say from their experiences, I will not even realize the valuable information that I am missing. To make an improvement in any subject takes effort (translate: work, time, focus, energy, and sometimes money)—am I willing to take that effort?
Is my Pride Holding me Back?
Author Honesty 101: we don’t like to be corrected (even if we technically ask for it). In the past month, I have received feedback for one novel and two short stories. While most of the feedback was primarily encouragement, I have some friends who will give it to me bluntly (e.g. “The overall flow felt kind of jolting to me.”—true quote). My
first reaction is to dismiss it with, “Well that’s just their opinion” or “They’re just picky readers” or even “They aren’t even in the writing field.” But… is there something that I can learn from their observation? Yes, sometimes you have an unnecessarily nit-picky reader. But, as in the example given, I know this reader (we discuss books together—and agree on many points!), and I know that they’re being honest, not degrading. As long as I’m too proud to admit that my story has flaws, I’m hindering myself from an opportunity to learn and better my writing. Pride is the root of an unteachable spirit—might I remind you that this spirit is the one that will always hold us back from our full potential.
Do I Even Care?
If I am content with my writing, unwilling to make an effort to learn more, and too proud to make changes, then in short, I just don’t really care about my writing. When I consider this as a Christian author, it also translates as: I don’t really care about my work being a shining testimony for God’s glory. We are exhorted by Scripture to do all things to the glory of God (Colossians 3:23—And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;), to be diligent (Proverbs 13:4—The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.), and to multiply the talents God gives us (Matthew 25:14-29). Are any of these steps easy? Hardly! But if we truly cared about writing and the calling God has placed on our lives, we would then do the best of our ability to polish that talent.
The thoughts of the diligent tend only to plenteousness;
but of every one that is hasty only to want.
I would love to hear your side of the story!
Are there other ways in which you’ve detected an unteachable spirit in writers?
How has God helped you to overcome your unteachable spirit?
What are choices you’re making in 2018 to become a writing student again?