Skip to main content

Mistake 7: An Unwillingness to Learn

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer from The Writer's Digest Writing Kit

Why this is a mistake: I’ve taught thousands of writers over the years. Online; through correspondence courses; at workshops, conferences, and retreats. I would have to say 95 percent of the participants really didn’t improve their writing very much. A good percentage of those, I believe, signed up for the instruction looking for validation, not to learn. When they didn’t get that validation, they shut their minds down. The rest thought they were there to fine-tune their writing, not get the major overhaul they really needed. For many others it was a case of not letting go of their preconceived notions about their writing. They just were not open to learning. More importantly, their minds were closed off to information and concepts that did not align with their own. But here’s the key: If you’re not where you want to be, you have to change. Change requires being open-minded.

Image placeholder title

The solution: Every year, I learn many new things about writing. My opinions and view of various aspects of the craft undergo tremendous changes as I listen to other writers, study the craft, and try new things. I believe open-mindedness to be one of the most critical character traits a writer must have in order to become better and successful. One of the keys to open-mindedness is focusing on things that you really object to or that make you angry when you see or hear them. We build our greatest defenses around our greatest weaknesses in all aspects of our lives, and that includes writing. So when something that you hear in a workshop or conference really bothers you, put aside your negative emotions and really focus on it with an open mind to see if perhaps you’ve just heard something very important that will make you a better writer.

If you do get published, become a teacher of writing—not only because you owe it to others to pass it on, but also because you will learn a lot by explaining what you think you know to other people.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Strength Lost

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Strength Lost

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let a character lose their powers.

Sharon Short | Point of View Quote 1

Managing Point of View: Mythbusting

In the first of this three-part series, novelist and WD columnist Sharon Short breaks down 7 of the most common myths about choosing which POV is right for your story.

Channel Your Inner Authorpreneur for Your Writing Labor of Love

Channel Your Inner Authorpreneur for Your Writing Labor of Love

As self-publishing continues to become an attractive and popular options for writers, it’s important to know what you’re getting into and to have the right expectations. Here, author and entrepreneur Tom Vaughan shares how to channel your inner “authorpreneur” to help your book find its readers.

Mark Kurlansky: On Coincidences Driving Memoir

Mark Kurlansky: On Coincidences Driving Memoir

Award-winning author, playwright, and journalist Mark Kurlansky discusses the experience of channeling Ernest Hemingway in his new memoir, The Importance of Not Being Ernest.

In-Between: Writer's Digest 2nd Annual Personal Essay Awards Winner

In-Between: Writer's Digest 2nd Annual Personal Essay Awards Winner

Congratulations to Alyssa Rickert, Grand Prize winner of the 2nd Annual Writer's Digest Personal Essay Awards. Here's her winning essay, "In Between."

Things To Consider When Writing About Ghosts and the Supernatural in Fiction

Things To Consider When Writing About Ghosts and the Supernatural in Fiction

From maintaining subtlety to visiting haunted places, author J. Fremont shares everything to consider when writing about ghosts and the supernatural in fiction.

6 Effective Steps To Promote Your Forthcoming Book on Social Media and Feel Good About It

6 Effective Steps To Promote Your Forthcoming Book on Social Media and Feel Good About It

Social media is a daunting albeit important aspect of promoting our work. Here, author Aileen Weintraub offers six steps to promote your book on social media authentically.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 609

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a world-building poem.

Writer's Digest Presents podcast image

Writer's Digest Presents: World-Building (Podcast, Episode 5)

In the fifth episode of the Writer's Digest Presents podcast, we talk about world-building in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, including interviews with authors Whitney Hill (fiction) and Jeannine Hall Gailey (poetry).