Thursday, March 1, 2012
We’ve probably all heard that at one time or another. But is it really true? Especially when it comes to our writing?
Can we honestly say that the more we write, the better we’ll get?
I’d like to believe that the longer I write and the more books I have under my belt, the better I’ll get.
After all, in the writing world, we like telling each other: “Persevere. If you write long enough, you’ll eventually be ready for publication” or “Keep putting in the time, and you’ll find success.”
All of that sounds nice and cheerful and very raindrops-on-roses.
But is it true?
Here’s what I think: Yes and No.
YES, we’ll likely get better to a degree over time.
1. Consistent writing can help strengthen our creative muscles. I’ve found that when I’m writing every day, I have a much easier time sitting down to my laptop and jumping back into my story world than those times when I’m sporadic.
Not only does the daily writing help the flow of my story, but I also find that regular writing enables me to think of words quicker, find plot solutions easier, and weave in descriptions better. Overall I’m able to write with more ease.
The creative parts of our brains are similar to any other muscle in our bodies. The more we engage them, the stronger and more flexible they become.
2. Regular writing can also help us improve our speed. I’ve also found that over time, I’m able to challenge myself to higher and higher daily word count goals (and weekly totals). With The Preacher’s Bride I made myself write 500 words a day. At that time, with a baby, toddler, and three elementary children, that was all I could manage.
With the book after that, I increased my daily word count goal to 800 words per day. During the next several books, I challenged myself to 1000 words a day. And now, with the book I’m currently working on, I’m up to 1200 words on a daily basis (or a weekly total of 7000).
I couldn’t have jumped into 1200 right away. But slowly, over time, I’ve worked my way up to doing more. In order to improve, we have to challenge ourselves to operate in the zone where it’s just slightly uncomfortable.
3. Disciplined writing helps us take our writing careers more seriously. Those writers who persevere in writing on a regular basis are developing self-discipline that can carry over into other aspects of our writing careers. When we guard our writing and take it seriously, then we’re more likely to show the same professionalism in other areas of our career.
NO, writing in greater frequency for long periods of time doesn’t guarantee success.
1. Just because we’re doing something all the time, doesn’t mean we’re getting better at it. Think about a person who jogs every day. Perhaps they’re perfectly content to jog two miles in twenty minutes for an entire year. That doesn’t mean they’re getting faster or gaining endurance. After a year of jogging at the same distance at the same pace, they aren’t automatically going to be able to run a 5K and finish in a decent time.
The same thing is true of writers. Just because we write 1000 words every day for an entire year, doesn’t necessarily mean we’re ready for publication. If we want to improve (in anything) we have to make conscious steps to push ourselves to do and learn more.
With each first draft, I try to pick a couple new techniques to intentionally work on. At first, I have to think about the technique and make a concerted effort to implement it. But eventually, it becomes effortless and natural. And then I challenge myself to put into practice something else new.
2. The longer we write, the more potential we have for stagnating. We can grow too comfortable with our style, voice, and stories. Our books can start to have a cookie cutter feel. Instead of pushing ourselves to think deeper and harder and find fresh ideas, we stick with what we’re used to.
As I'm currently writing my fifth book for Bethany House Publishers, I’m realizing I need to brainstorm harder, search for new twists, and fight for original metaphors and descriptions—so that I don’t serve my readers leftovers.
My Summary: If we really want to get better at writing, then yes, we need to keep doing it day after day. But we can’t stop there. We have to consciously challenge ourselves to grow in our skill too.
So how long have you been writing? Do you think the longer you write, the better you get? Or do you think other factors (besides the passing of time) are necessary for growth?
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