Earlier this week, Davin posted about the idea of experts versus novices, and how they view processes and fields of learning in different ways. It got me thinking about how one indicator that we are learning our craft is when we can recognize things we don't do well. If we can see our own limits, that means we have a big enough picture of what writing is to know how well our skills fit within that picture. As we write more and grow as writers, these limits get farther out and the things we need to work on become more subtle and personal. Thinking about showing and not telling, for example, maybe becomes thinking about how summarizing a scene will impact the imagery we're using and how that will affect the long-term shape of the narrative. The concept of dialogue will evolve from ideas about breaking it up with beats and tags into ideas about, maybe, the weight of individual words and the rhythm of the exchanges and how that works with the rhythm of the book's voice.
Anyway, I am sure that every established writer, no matter how many books she has published, is aware of things she'd like to do better. Even the ones who tell you otherwise and repeat a mantra of "don't get it right; get it written." I'm not talking about perfectionism here (though it's one of my many annoying traits as a writer) so much as I'm talking about awareness of not quite getting what we want down onto the page and seeing that we ought to work harder at what we can't quite do satisfactorily.
For example, I have a tendency to sort of hedge my bets when writing. I will sometimes refuse to commit to a specific meaning in a story, by which I mean that I can't decide exactly how someone feels about a situation, so that character will talk about it in vague terms. You know they feel something but I won't tell you what it is because I don't want to decide. Decisions are hard work, and have implications for the remainder of the story, so I'll write passages that could have more than one meaning--not to be clever, but because I just don't know. I wish I'd knock that off.
I also think that I don't pay as much attention to setting and detail as I should. Mostly that's because I am more interested in character than in details, or maybe I'm just telling myself that because writing setting and detail is a weak spot. In my current book, I am forcing myself to slow down and focus more on the physical details of the fictional world, and I don't like it because I don't do it well, but my hope is that when I've finished the first draft of the WIP, I'll have trained myself to do this kind of writing better. That which does not kill me makes me stronger, and all of that.
So I'm wondering, are you aware of the current limits of your craft? Are you consciously working on them? What's the most recent breakthrough you've had in your writing?
More importantly: It's Friday! This weekend cannot come too soon.