Back in my undergrad years, a friend of mine named Dan Brown [no...not the Dan Brown] and I used to play writing games with story starters. One day he said simply,
“A writer writes every day.”
That struck something deep within me and stuck. For the twenty-odd years since, I have tried to take pen in hand–or more recently, netbook in lap–and get some words out on to the page every day. Sometimes it’s only a friendly email or a journal entry. Sometimes it’s an outline for a story idea. Sometimes it’s a poem someone needs for a special occasion. Sometimes it’s a scene from one of my works-in-progress that doesn’t exactly fit yet, but I know I’ll tie it together later.
That simple phrase was a gift. Just as with anything we do regularly, practice makes progress. The more I parallel park, the less back-and-forths I have to make. The more I practice my roundhouse kicks, the higher and harder they get. The more I write, the fewer the times I encounter writer’s block. It just becomes natural. In fact, now I feel incomplete without some kind of writing utensil handy. I write to think, to remember, to explore, to record, to amuse…
The one thing I’d add to Dan’s counsel is that a writer should also read every day from different types of writing aimed at different audiences. Reading has taught me how language can be used, and it keeps my mind active, both as I analyze and as I imagine. Read good writing. It’s a terrific instructor.
If I sound like an English teacher, well…I am. But I’ll let you choose your own assignments.