The more you practice, the better you get, right? I don’t know if that’s necessarily true, not in such simple terms. Certainly, you get more practiced the longer you are doing something, but does it really result in improvements?
Even with the knowledge that personal taste is a huge part of any judgement, I know of artists who have a career that spans many years and shows some kind of decline the longer they work in their field. With some graphic artists, the changes often show they have fallen into a simple, easy-to-repeat style. They simplify so they can keep producing their work. This is a kind of improvement; they are now more streamlined and capable of fulfilling their obligation to draw frequently. But it doesn’t make it better, artistically.
In that vein, some authors are so prevalent with their writing, you can see when they fall into a rhythm, a method to continue putting forth their creations with such astounding frequency. They work for years and keep writing, and even if you’re still entertained by their work, they have found ways to simplify and streamline, perhaps sacrificing something important along the way.
Maybe it’s the compulsive, habitual nature of humans that makes even artists fall back on something that’s almost uncreative in its repetition. Or perhaps some people just fixate on a specific style and consciously aim to recreate that, as their “tried and true” method. Or, heaven forbid, maybe we’re all only capable of producing our work in a limited number of ways, and it’s just when you’re able to see a large collection that it becomes evident.
These people are all very well practiced, and I’m sure they are very happy with the progression of their skill, but it doesn’t always work out better, as far as I can see. I have even noted in my own writing, new things might be put together with better skill, yet lack in some kind of special soul that an older work captured. At least I can put that down to most of it being unfinished, still in the process of becoming something better, becoming the attractive finished product.
I don’t like the idea of stagnation. I see patterns in my work, certainly, but I can only hope that there’s no decline in the quality just because I find ways to “improve” over time.
7 thoughts on “Changes over time”
I think about this a lot — especially because my writing training is all in journalism — and often think about taking a fiction class. And I at least read everything I can get my eyes on about fiction writing and hope that it keeps me improving over time, too.
If it makes you feel any better, Julia, most of us aren’t officially trained in any kind of writing, beyond maybe a creative writing course or something similar. Fiction is one of those things that is birthed from your own love of it. A background in non-fiction writing can only be beneficial!
Insightful post. It’s very true. It may be that there’s a cap to our skills and abilities. Or maybe it depends on the artist. Some artist never stop pushing themselves. Others, mostly ones who are dependent on their art it seems, go get into a rut that they have to stick with. That could be for a few reasons– readers expectations or maybe what editors or companies are expecting their audience to expect.
I’m sure you’ll do fine. You have a very creative and imaginative mind. I doubt you’ll ever be satisfied in that way that makes you stop pushing and trying new things. 😉
You bring up an important point that I didn’t cover: reader and editor/publisher expectations. How much does this play into a long-time writer sticking with a very narrow range of work? I know that some of these very authors I have in mind have tried branching out before, and not always been well received. That’s part of why I will release my romance novels under a pen name. I will openly claim my work, but it won’t give people the wrong idea if they’ve come across me through the horror/dark fantasy work.
And thank you! You know me well already. 😉
Wow, this is something that I’ve never thought about in these words, but is so true and perceptive. I was nodding the whole time I was reading. I think that’s the challenge of a good artist: to always push their limits and break their comfort zones. It’s why a lot of musicians have “rebelling fans,” because the fans want what they know, but the artists want to keep from stagnating. Definitely a good thing to think about. And I agree with Nina — I’m sure you won’t let this happen to you. The fact that you’re so aware of it is proof enough of your creative drive. Thanks for this post… what a thinker!
Musicians definitely feel the negative effects of this the most. On one hand, everyone grows and experiences personal changes, and musicians will want and need to make new things over time. On the other hand, dedicated fans won’t necessarily be interested in the direction the new music has gone, and that can translate into being a commercial failure. Sometimes I wonder if the musicians who start new projects/bands frequently are the ones who got it right: they get to adapt as artists, and if their previous fans want to check out their new work, then they may, but they have made the clear distinction that this is different from their other songs. I’m super glad you enjoyed this post! I think way too much. 😉
I think that’s one of the reasons most of my favorite musicians are the ones who change it up a lot, who are varied right from the start, even if it’s not always obvious right away. Barenaked Ladies’ bassist, for example, writes some really cool jazz numbers & African-styled beats. Weird Al has sustained a career in the normally-fleeting parody field by (a) not becoming stagnant or predictable like so many of his colleagues & (b) putting in the effort to actually play the different styles of the people he parodies, rather than translating everything to just his own main instrument. And my old friends the Monkees….every album of theirs has at least 3 wholly different styles of music on it, & not always the same 3.
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