First, for those who don’t know, the full saying is “a jack-of -all-trades, a master of none.” What this refers to is a person who knows a little about a lot of things, but hasn’t fully mastered any of them. So why is this important to writers?

One might believe that a writer should at least master writing, but I for one do not think that this is true. Life is a constant learning experience, and so is writing. I believe that a writer should constantly be on the lookout for a better way to write a paragraph, express an idea, or research a subject. The day that you as a writer think you have fully mastered your craft is the day you stop. Imperfection fuels imagination.

Okay, (I assume) you say, I understand why it is important not to think of myself as a master at writing, but why do I have to try to be a jack-of-all-trades? Surely it is enough to know only about my genre or subject matter. Why do I have to learn about things I have no interest in writing about? If this is indeed what you are thinking, slap yourself. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

First a writer’s curiosity should naturally lead him or her to discover new things about the world around them. To say you have no interest in experiencing as much of the world as you can, is like a painter saying that he has no interest in color. Even if you never write about what you learn, your greater understanding of the world as a whole will drastically improve your writing.

Also, you never know what may inspire you or what strange out-of-the-box connections you can make. Being able to unite diverse ideas and thoughts is one of a writer’s greatest gifts, and when you do so you are not only creating a good story, you are also helping the world look at things in a different way. Isn’t that one of the main points of writing in the first place?

Finally, there is the storytelling aspect itself. How many adventure books have you read without any romance whatsoever? (BTW, bromances still count.) How many romances have you read without any action? Every book no matter what the main genre is has lots of minor genres included. And each genre does some things extremely well. You can learn a lot about tension and pacing from a good thriller (or even a bad one) and even “literary” books are good at building characters, settings, and dialogue. Children’s books and short stories evoke a lot of emotion in a very short space. Something more stories can learn from. I know I’m still trying. It isn’t just about reading though. Even if you never publish a story outside of your chosen genre, attempting to write one can still help sharpen your skills in different areas. It may bring to light problems you didn’t even know you had.

So here is the cheat sheet answer of why you should want to be a jack-of-all-trades: it will make you a better writer.

Advertisements