Writing is Difficult, and Short Cuts Are Few
'During the early days of my life as a writer, I devoured all sorts of how-to books, from the aforementioned classics to the more absurd. The latter were my porno, my bad TV; they offered nothing of any value, really. I forgot everything shortly after I read it. The titles always included some type of promise like Dare To Be Great, Write to Sell, Write To Break Out or Write To Live. Even if I could remember anything, I couldn't apply what I had learned. My writing brain lived in a faraway land; I could not find any direct route to this learning. The same thing happened in graduate school. The knowledge gained from reading, reading, reading, talking, talking, talking and workshop, workshop, workshop sat in one impervious mound of dirt inside my head only to be doled out over time by an invisible (and stingy) hand. I suppose there are those who find prescriptive advice about writing helpful, writers who can look at a project, identify a structure, use an outline, and get to writing. One, two, three...poof! But I cannot imagine a world where this is true, a world where one creates great characters in five steps, a world in which one pops books out like laying eggs. In my world, writing is difficult, and short cuts are few. The only real way to learn how to do it is to read the work of authors who write well and to, well, write--a lot. Along the way, of course, it is always helpful--and interesting--to talk or listen to writers discuss their process and the work of other writers.'
--from Lee Montgomery's introduction to The Writer's Notebook--Craft Essays from Tin House.