A fellow WordPresser , Arvik, recently bloggled about learning for learning’s sake (good post, you should check it out). That got me thinking about how I learn best, and what I have learned while avidly struggling to become a better writer.
I am a martial artist. I have spent years training in various styles, pushing my mind and body to limits I would have considered impossible at the outset. Like writing, marital arts requires a steady diet of practice for improvement. For some these improvements come handily. They see a move, intuit its purpose, and perform it with near flawless artistry (or brutality). Others struggle. They work hard for every tiny improvement, pushing their limits and then pushing further to meet their goals.
No matter what type of martial artist you are, one truth remains: in order to learn and eventually master your chosen art, you must consistently practice at a level high enough to challenge your current skills. Anyone who calls him/herself a martial artist, but lays on the couch eating Cheetos, is a liar.
The same holds true for writing. I’ve known only a handful of people who say they are writers (offline I mean — online is a totally different story). But by my own anecdotal estimate I’d say at least half of those supposed writers have never completed a story let alone a novel. Most of them say they don’t have time or they aren’t ready to tackle the stories in their heads.
When will you have time? Are you waiting till your children grow up and move out? Are you planning to retire from your job anytime in the next twenty years?
And what about feeling unprepared or unqualified to be an AUTHOR? What will it take for you to feel qualified? How will you gain the experience you need to tell your story?
Who has time? No one. No one has time. If you had time you could pull some out of your pocket or purse and dole it out anyway you wanted. Instead, in our universe, you have an unending stream of NOW. NOW requires some planning, no doubt. But NOW never ceases. You use NOW whatever way you wish and then you use it some other way.
For me, NOW is a little bit before 9PM. My children are in bed and I’m at my computer while my wife is out running errands. I’m using NOW to write. Later, I will use NOW to spend time with my family, to sleep, to work, to keep my life flowing as it should. It never ends till we die and we can use it however we like, assuming we aren’t in prison. Tomorrow morning I will use about 2.5 hours of NOW beginning at 4AM to continue editing my novel. Funny thing about NOW, its there even when everyone’s asleep.
I took a LOT of courses in the military. Most of them were required to earn one qualification or another for jobs and security and all the other little thing’s bean counters care about. Whenever I had to take a course for some job, my sergeant would order me to the classroom where I and thirty some odd lower enlisted folks would study and work every day until we qualified. We didn’t have a choice. We couldn’t say, “I don’t have the skills for that job, so I can’t train.” You trained so you would acquire the skills!
Writers write. Dedicated writers write every freaking day. They put their brains on the current project, they hammer away on the keys, and when it comes out vomit on the page, they rewrite it (and rewrite it again) until it shines.
If I wanted to fly a plane I would fly every chance I got. I would use NOW to fly.
I don’t want to be a pilot. I want to be a successful author. I use NOW to write. And because I don’t yet feel I’ve mastered the craft — nor will I ever — I write every day. Otherwise I’ll never qualify.
— david j.