Wednesday, July 11, 2012

How do feel you have progressed as a writer over the past few years?

By Andrew E. Kaufman

That’s the question someone posed to me in a recent interview. It’s a good one, but I have to admit that it caught me a little off guard. It wasn’t that I didn’t know—I just hadn’t really paused to think about it in quite some time. The past year has been a whirlwind of activity, and the recent success of my latest novel took me by surprise. I feel as though I’ve been spinning ever since, sometimes with excitement, sometimes with anxiety, sometimes with fear, sometimes with pure exhaustion.

And admittedly, sometimes with I-don’t-know-what.

At times it’s felt as though the bulk of my progress has taken place during this accelerated period, but I know that’s not really true, that it’s been moving on a steady continuum for several years now. The bigger events do tend to cloud the smaller ones, but all are equally important.

But I’m really glad they asked me this question because it’s one we should all ask ourselves from time to time no matter what we do. It’s good for us to stop, to look back, and to measure just how far we’ve come, and it’s important to recognize our accomplishments, our failures—everything—no matter how big or small those things might be.

I remember putting my first book on Kindle and having no idea where it might lead. All I knew was that I wanted to get it “out there “ in the readers’ hands. I sold a total of four copies in the first month, and I soon realized I still had a great deal to learn, and I was thrilled when I finally did. I had very little understanding of how this industry worked at the time. Now I feel like I know a lot. More progress.

And my writing has changed over time as well. I’m the kind of person who likes to keep learning new things. I love to stretch and grow, and I feel as though I have. I look back at some of my earlier work—even my first book—and I can see how much my writing style has changed over the years. Even as I work on my third novel, I have a strong sense that I’ve improved my craft in a way that makes me feel proud. It’s great to be see myself in that place.

My confidence level, while certainly not to the point where I feel fearless or invincible, has risen right along with my writing. Let’s face it, to be a writer means to be vulnerable, and admittedly, that was a tough one for me. Most of us pour our hearts and souls onto the pages. It takes time to build a tough enough skin to where we’re able to use criticism to mobilize us instead of paralyze us. But it’s important. It’s part of The Process. I feel as though I’ve finally reached a point where I can look at criticism objectively instead of emotionally, to sort out the things I feel can help me from the ones that don’t, and then use them to propel my work forward. I don’t worry or obsess about it as much, and that also feels wonderful. Yet another sign of growth.

How about you? Whether you’re an author or not, do you stop every once in a while to take a good look at where you came from, where you are now, and how far you’ve come? If you do, what do you see?


  1. While your original writings were nothing to sneeze at, I have enjoyed watching your progress as well. Getting better by doing seems to be a natural process, however, you go a step beyond that by. I know how much you put into your stories, the characters, research, editing, writing and rewriting... And it always shows.

    As for myself, I'm continually amazed when I look back at something I either wrote or designed (as in a book cover or interior format) and realize what a long way I've come as well. It's actually nice to see.

    Great post, as always.

  2. "I refuse to write the same story twice. I keep experimenting. I keep learning how to work. I've been at it pretty much 50 years, and I'm now beginning to learn how to do the job well." —Harlan Ellison

  3. In short, I can now see with ease how much a first draft sucks. 5 years ago, writing my first manuscript, I thought my first draft was ready for publication. Hee hee, how wrong was I. I've learned a ton since my first book was finally picked up, and I continue to learn.


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