Never Stop Improving

“Never Stop Improving” has been Lowe’s slogan since 2011. Those three words are powerful, even outside of home improvement projects. This mantra should be something we strive to achieve each day in our personal lives. We should work to sharpen our skills and find ways to improve what we do.

Make today better than yesterday.

Any skill requires practice in order to master it. Whether arts or vocation or hobbies, one doesn’t simply become great at performing tasks overnight. Sometimes, in order to reach the stage of being a master, one must invest years of his/her life, working each day to improve. Of course, a small portion of the world is born having innate gifted talent or intellect that advances them far ahead of others at an earlier age. These prodigies, however, are the rare exceptions. But for those of us who start with good talent and want to become even better, we recognize that our skill has not yet reached its peak. We must continue to apply ourselves and research to discover ways for improvement.

For years, I jumped between various hobbies and educational goals that I loved with great enthusiasm and vigor. I learned, though, that I didn’t have enough time to equally invest in these pastime projects. I was unable to do justice to all of them. If I continued pursuing all of them, none would be greater than mediocre. I narrowed down my pursuits and focused on fewer projects. My one passion that has always dominated all the others? Writing.

Writing novels is my greatest passion. The majority of my other interests I set aside, so I could better focus on writing, world building, fleshing out characters, and developing plots. I’ve learned that’s how my mind is geared. Regardless of what early interests I’ve had, the zeal of following characters into their worlds through their ordeals and recording them in a book has only increased. But, I have to confess something. I didn’t choose to become a writer. The urge to write is ingrained in me. I’ve known this from the time I was ten years of age.

I would be a lesser person if I didn’t write. During some long periods of time when I’ve not been able to write due to outside constraints, I’ve been miserable. The same hasn’t been true for the other crafts I’ve chosen to leave behind. Although I enjoyed them, I’ve had no nudge to return to them. If I’m not writing, there’s a constant nudge and prodding for me to get back to work.

Does that mean I wasted my time with all the other hobbies I had? No, of course not. I learned a lot from research and practicing with those experiments. The knowledge I gleaned has been useful in many of my books and characters. Gained knowledge is never a liability. The more you learn, the broader your range for writing diverse characters and plots becomes. The absolute worst thing you can do with knowledge is waste it. Instead, find ways to apply it and always keep reading, keep learning. Study other authors, their techniques, and how they write prose and dialogue.

I invested years in insect collecting and butterfly/moth rearing. For over twenty years, I accumulated a large collection. I thought I wanted to become an entomologist or a botanist, because I love the natural sciences. I love science so much that I earned my B.S. in biology. Yet, the urge to write outweighed those goals, and my outlook gradually changed.

I was at a crossroads when I returned to college after a seven year hiatus. I was torn between majoring in biology and English. At the time, I had started my novel, Predators of Darkness, which dealt with genetic mutations. I needed to understand genetics and microbiology better than I already did, so I dedicated myself to finishing my degree in biology. I don’t regret that decision because the science in my novel(s) is/are fairly solid (other than occasional fictional aspects thrown in), and that helps strengthen the plausibility. Even now, I marvel at the advancements in medical science and technology. Our understanding continues to expand, especially in the micro aspects of biology. It’s truly remarkable where we are in the scientific world today, and almost daily, scientists are making new discoveries.

The whole time I worked on my B.S., I was still writing and trying to improve my craft. I read and studied a synonym dictionary. I learned the definitions and how to spell the list of possible words used for the MCAT; thus, broadening my vocabulary. I read volumes of writing technique books and magazines, as well as interviews with countless authors about their writing processes. I devoured as much information as I could because I wanted my writing to be as great as the top authors in the published world.

My writing has improved so much over the years, but I still desire to polish my writing style. I’m still working toward my mastery of the writing craft. I doubt I’ll ever be fully satisfied with my work, subconsciously thinking there’s room for making it better, but I will constantly strive to NEVER STOP IMPROVING.

Until next time …..

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