Friday, August 04, 2017
Summer of the Horse: Practice, Practice, Practice
This week, I began a new writing project in earnest. No more "fiddling and farting around", as my mother would say. No more appointments, no more parties. No more procrastination. Time to start the new project.
This is the hardest part of writing. The starting. The getting into it. The finding the flow. The first couple of days are a struggle to get comfortable in my chair, rummage through the jumble of words eager to be strung together to create engaging sentences, wade through the swamp grass and the suctioning mud in order to slip into the clear, swift current that will carry me into the story.
There is always that moment -- like in running or swimming or dancing or ANYTHING -- when you feel like you can't do it, you aren't good enough, you don't know what you're doing, you're tired, you're...blah, blah, blah...and you just keep going and it happens. You break through and you get it. From then on, you've got it. You can't wait to sit in that chair and write.
This week reminded me of the importance of practice, of Just Doing It. The advice most established writers give to emerging writers is this: Put your butt in the chair and leave it there. It sounds silly, it sounds simple but that's all there is. Your butt in the chair, your hands on the keyboard or holding the pen, and being there, doing it. Because the more you do it, every day, day after day, the better you get.
The more you do it, the more you remember that you WILL break through, you WILL get it.
Every time I start a new writing project, I have to give myself that advice. I have to make myself sit in the chair and not bounce out of it every ten minutes when I don't know what the heck I'm doing, when I don't know what I'm trying to say, when it just seems too hard.
So I make myself do a Power Hour: I tell myself, "I will write until such-and-such a time," and I do it. It's a trick but it works. It's the breakthrough.
The same goes for learning to ride. You put your butt in the saddle and you stay there until you get what you're trying to learn. Week after week, you show up, you tack up, you get your butt in the saddle and you trot around that dusty, sun-beaten ring until you feel it, until you know you're getting it, until you get better at it.
I had that moment today during my lesson, when I was hot and sweaty, worn out. I kept at that damn trot going the way I'm weakest at (counter-clockwise, which I think is called left reign) until I was posting correctly and continuously.
(Which reminds me of another trick in writing: You don't stop when you are stuck. You stop when you know exactly what you're going to write next. That way, you are eager to get back to work because it's easy to get into it.)
You cannot accomplish anything without practicing it over and over again. It is annoying but it is the rule.
There is absolutely no way to become the painter or writer or rider or carpenter or singer you long to be without staying in one place for an hour at a time.
But remember: there are carrots and strawberries for a reward when you're done.