Some people don’t want you to know this, but writing is like most things*: the more you do it, the easier it gets. Way back in the 90’s when, for the first time in my life, I decided to take writing seriously, I signed-up for classes. One of my teachers, an assistant professor of literature at a prestigious university in the northeast US, told us, “When you start a new story, it’s always as a beginner—no matter how many stories you’ve written.” O-kay. A bit of a downer, I thought. Don’t you learn from experience as a writer? I didn’t assume she was right but I did remember it and now realize that this unpleasant idea has been the back of my mind all this time. It’s been bothering me. I won’t blame this teacher for my slow progress; there are a few [jillion] other factors that go into that. But now that I am completely sure she was wrong, I do wonder how many stories she had written. Maybe that was her experience simply because she hadn’t yet written enough words. There’s an oft-quoted phrase from Ray Bradbury where he suggests, that if you want to be a writer, “write a million words,” with the idea being that in writing, as in everything else, practice really does matter. I am in the middle of the best writing year I’ve ever had. It feels as if I crossed an invisible line. I’m in new territory where I find it easier to start, easier to finish, easier to revise, easier to polish, easier to find my way when I’m in the vast wasteland of the middle of a story, easier to send my work out, and out again, and adding to all of the above, easier to trust myself as a writer. I know that this is, at least partially, due to the number of words I’ve written over the last ten years. Maybe not a million words, but after nine years of NaNoWriMo, dozens of short stories and poems, a hundred or so online articles and blog posts and numerous revisions of all of the above, I’m in the neighbourhood. Hi Ray! I made it! I’m not a successful writer—yet, but I am a working writer and even that feels pretty darned good. It doesn’t mean that if someone’s been writing for years, it’s always an easy jog to the finish line with every story. Anyone at anytime can have a difficult project that gives them trouble. But, it does mean that they have experience which informs their writing process. I have, in fact, learned from experience. The more writing I do, the more I push through all of the great reasons not to write, and get the words out and down, the easier it becomes to do it the next time. My teacher was simply wrong. I just Googled her name. She’s listed in various professional positions and articles, but I can’t find any publications for her. I take no pleasure in this. I wish her well. I just hope she’s been working hard, writing a lot of words, and is feeling, as I am, that practice really does help us to be experienced—and therefore, better—writers. *things that don’t get easier the more you do them: moving. Anyone else want to add to this list?
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