I, Apprentice

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

I’ve often read about writers, especially young writers, who write like the writers they are reading.  I don’t have that issue.  In fact, I wish I did.  How easy would it be if I could instantly write like a successful writer.

However, I have learned some great things from some amazing writers.  From Bradbury and Gardner, I learned you don’t have to write poetry to write lyrically.  From Hemingway, I learned that the simplest sentence can be powerful.  From Faulkner and Twain, I learned you don’t have to stray far from home to find intriguing settings.  From Steinbeck and Joyce, I learned a fulfilling story isn’t about living happily ever after.

We can learn so much from the supposed masters of our craft.  But, I believe you can learn something from any writer or any reader.  Look at the contributors to the Confabulator Café.  We all have our own styles, strengths, and weaknesses.

We all have our literary loves.  We have varied backgrounds as readers.  We each have different things we think about when writing, and different focuses when we re-write.  Because of that, when we trade manuscripts, we each find things the other didn’t necessarily know they were missing.

That is the beauty of writing.  I could live to be a thousand years old, writing hours upon hours every day, but I would never master writing.  My writing would never stop evolving.  It will always change to encompass the person I am, beyond the writer I become.

The world doesn’t stop turning, lives are lived and lessons learned.  As such, art is always in motion, simultaneously pulling and pushing the artist along with it.

I may never be able to tell a story that entertains the way King has managed, or understand the psychology of my reader’s fears like Poe.  I may never be able to disturb like Palahniuk or key on the insecurities of the every man like Hornby.  That won’t stop me from learning my lessons from their strengths, hoping that at the end of the book, I am a better writer because of it.

I might never figure out that Science Fiction plot that eludes me despite my love of Clarke, Aismov, Heinlein, Card, and countless others.  But, some literary truths are universal, and perhaps some part of them lives in my writing, regardless of whether my fiction ever leaves rural America, much less the surface of the Earth.

I may not write like my favorite authors, but I haven’t forgotten them either.  As I continue to develop my voice, parts of it will be from parts of them, no matter how much distance I try to place between us.


Jack Campbell, Jr. is a dark fiction writer in Lawrence, KS. His writing has appeared in various venues including Twenty 3 Magazine, Danse Macabre, and Insomnia Press. He writes about reading, writing, and life on his blog at www.jackcampbelljr.com.

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