My son and I were talking today about humility. He’s gotten very involved in kickboxing, and he was talking about how important it was for participants to approach the sport and sparring with a humble attitude. When they do that, they learn faster and people respond to them better.
That has a surprising corollary with writing, oddly enough. A humble attitude and a willingness to admit to what you don't know will go a long way toward easing a writer's journey. Conversely, it can be annoying when new writers act as if they will do it differently than all those who came before them (as if all those who came before them did it that way simply because they didn't know any better or enjoyed being inefficient), that they won’t take ten years to get published, or that their manuscript won’t need round after round of revisions. Or whatever. It is highly, highly annoying.
I don’t think you can teach someone else to be humble by telling them about it. They have to run smack into it themselves. We all have to crash headlong into our own humility, not be urged to it by well-meaning outsiders. It’s a lot like democracy; you can’t import it—it has to grow organically from the organism itself—not be transplanted. ☺
Humility is like that. In fact, most of Life’s—not to mention, writing’s—really important lessons are like that. You have to run into them full tilt so that they knock you on your @ss and WAKE YOU UP to the fact that something is not working.
Just like our characters don’t wake up one day and decide, Hey, I need to change who I am or turn my life around, most people don’t wake up one day and realize all our writing is dreck.
That’s where that long string of rejections comes into play. It weeds out those who aren’t willing to adapt and try new things. Because that is what failing repeatedly forces us to do—what all failure and rejection forces us to do—stretch and grow and learn to come at problems from an entirely new angle. Or learn a new skill so we can try again.