Among the general awesomeness of WriteOnCon, this particular post from Molly O'Neill really resonated with me. You should definitely read the whole thing if you haven't already, but this paragraph really stood out:
Focusing on craft makes you ask and answer the hard questions of yourself: Are you growing as a writer? Is each character or plot or setting that you write more masterful, on some level, than those that came before it? Are you setting yourself new challenges (and meeting them?) with every book you write? Are you learning from your failures, instead of letting them limit or define you?
This is something I've been doing without realising that it was something I should be doing. As dumb as that sounds.
Let me explain.
When first started to take my writing seriously, I wrote a lot of ms in quick succession, and all of them sucked. I never felt the urge to revise or improve these stories. I was never strongly attached to them. I felt like I was writing the same-but-different story over and over again.
Turns out, I was.
I felt, for a long time, that I wasn't improving as a writer. I wasn't moving forward. I was stuck in this okay-but-not-amazing land of writing. I wanted to move on, to get better. I wanted to be proud of what I was writing.
So I decided to push myself. I put away the first person, past tense paranormal stories--of which there were many--and wrote a contemporary first person, present tense story. It was hard writing in present tense. It was hard writing a character driven story. But when I finished it, I had the first ms that I truly cared about. The first ms I really loved.
The first ms I was proud of.
And I have continued to write stories that challenged me as a writer. Now, when I'm thinking about new projects and ideas, I always ask myself: How can I push myself? Challenge my ability as a writer?
I may not have an agent, a publishing contract, hordes of screaming fans, but I do have the ability to improve my craft, and to grow as a writer.
At present, the two WiPs I'm playing around with are challenging me. Daily. One is a non-linear story with an unreliable narrator who I suspect is a borderline psychopath. The second one follows two separate stories, which I hope will come together at the end. (Fingers crossed!)
They're both hard, challenging, and frustrating, but if it was easy, I wouldn't be improving as a writer.
I'll leave you with this parting quote, also from Molly O'Neill's WriteOnCon article:
"…only YOU can make yourself a stronger writer, a better writer, a writer whose craft demands the attention of everyone who comes to the work after you complete it."