Humans grow complacent, and that’s a fact of life. This can happen at anything: you keep from sharpening your edge at your job, and soon you lose the ability (or desire) to get better. You don’t play video games for a while, and you lose your skillset. And if you don’t write for a while, well…
Writing, like any skill, needs to be practiced. Just because you went through an internet course on How to Write Bestselling Fiction doesn’t mean that you’re a master for the rest of your life. Granted, if you take those lessons to heart and improve, you will be pretty good…for a season.
The trick here is repetition. You don’t need to fetch the same stick fifty times to become a master at fetching the stick; you have to fetch the stick every day for the rest of your life. If you don’t write often or well, then you will never be at the top of your game.
This is an inescapable truth. Not just of writing, but of life in general. If you do not practice early and often, you will never succeed at anything that requires hard work. in your writing, this is especially relevant.
Sure, you may feel that you’re at the top of your game right now, and you very well may be. But there are two dangers that occur with this realization: One is the danger of forgetting to practice, and the other is the monster of complacency.
It’s not my place to say which one is worse, and such a classification is useless. There’s only one problem: if your writing skills are not what they should be, then you need to fix one of these two problems if they are present or just simply get better.
I can’t abide by standard work. Even if you only have one shot, you should always give it your best shot. If you have multiple shots, make every shot as good as your first, and make your first shot your best shot. Writing is not only a tough game, it’s a waiting game: your lazy side is daring you to quit, chapter after chapter.
You should always strive for excellence. If this book wasn’t your best work, then rework it until it is. Never, ever settle. If demons of complacency and laziness are creeping in and disrupting your work, making it less than your best or even “below average”, cast them out.
Before you can deal with complacency or laziness, you have to identify them first. Ask yourself: Am I truly satisfied with my work? Could I do better? Why am I putting off this rewriting job? Is it because I’m afraid of work? COULD I be better at writing?
Learn to spot your flaws, and don’t be afraid to admit and correct them. Take pride in your work, but don’t be so proud that you can’t accept correction or responsibility. No human is perfect (or haven’t you noticed?), and you will have problems. If you’re a writer, you will have writing problems. Fix them.
If you find yourself complacent, the only cure for that is self-inflicted. Explore the areas that you think you know so well. Instead of adopting an air of “Ah, but I know all about that” think instead that “There’s so much more out there that I can learn”. You may know a lot about these topics, granted, but the art of writing is vast.
It’s foolish to think that you know everything about writing. I’ll allow that you know something about how to craft believable characters, or at writing crowd-pleasing stories. But, undeniably, there are things that you haven’t explored, and therefore don’t know.
And (little stickler you) you may say “but I KNOW that I don’t know everything!” You may know it, so stop ACTING like it. You have more influence on yourself consciously than you think. ACTING like you know everything about writing will start to make you believe that you DO know everything about writing.
If you find yourself growing lazy, then just work harder. Train harder. Think harder. Write harder. Laziness is comfortable, but work can be much the same way. But if you have one, there’s no room for the other. You can’t be lazy and diligent. Of course, laziness is unproductive and stupid, so work off those mental folds of flab and get back to writing.
Pro tip: be humble.
Good luck, and happy writing!