Friday, July 15, 2005

Must Be Willing To Learn

Successful authors are continually growing in their writing life. They certainly deserve a certain amount of respect for their creation of a bestselling product or book. But they aren’t pushy about demanding this respect nor do they flaunt their bestselling status (as some people do). These writers recognize that each of us are on a journey and they are trying to grow in their craft and are willing to continue learning.

I’m continuing my series of entries about the Writing Life on key qualities of bestselling authors.  These qualities aren’t anything scientific but simply from my years of interacting and observing these authors in different settings. If you have missed any of these posts, go back and pick up the other qualities since each one is a valuable aspect to build into your own writing life.

This past week I’ve been at a large convention and had another opportunity to meet additional authors and see old friends in this business.  Certain authors try and set themselves above the others in this setting. The authors move with a group of people around them. These authors have people who meet their every want or need—and instantly. Also you can’t get to these authors without going through the intermediary or having a pre-arranged appointment.  This convention was a closed trade show. No one can enter the floor unless they are a part of the publishing industry and obtain a badge.  The majority of authors feel free to roam the floor without their contingent of assistants. The danger for those with this type of arrangement is simply having a bunch of “yes” people around them. They will only tell you the positives and never help you learn or grow in life.

Many years ago, I supervised an author who had written numerous books. One day I asked him if he ever attended a writer’s conference. He looked at me and sincerely said, “Yes, I go when they ask me to teach.” He missed my question. I was trying to see if he was actively learning and growing in his life as a writer. In a backhanded way, the author answered, “No. I’ve learned it all.” No one has learned it all and each of us (no matter at what point in our writing and publishing career) has more to learn.

Despite my numerous published books and magazine work, I continue to learn more about the craft of writing. I continually read new how-to writing books and magazines. I can improve and will be improving in the days ahead.

Last Sunday night the featured speaker at the convention was Rob Bell, the founding pastor of Mars Hill in Grandville, Michigan (one of the fastest growing churches in America). It was fascinating to hear Rob talk about the Christian life as a journey and each person in the room trying to get to the next point of growth. In contrast, many pastors and teachers contend the Christian life is a destination—and once you arrive, you are there.  Danger lurks when you believe this second view and you encounter a bump along the road. The same type of danger exists for the writer—even the bestselling writer. They begin to believe their own press and reputation. When they hit a bump in the road, it throws them for a huge loop. Instead, I believe there is wisdom in the writers who are continually growing in their craft and willing to learn—from any source. This type of availability will show to others around you—whether you are aware of it or not.

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