“All of us are scared: of looking dumb, of running out of ideas, of never selling our copy, of not getting noticed. We fiction writers make a business of being scared, and not just of looking dumb. Some of these fears may never go away, and we may just have to learn to live with them.” -Jack Bickham
When I was young it was rare to find me without both a notebook and pen. Writing was my passion. Often I expressed myself through poetry and metaphor – as if trying to tell the world in secret code what was going on. This passion saved my life.
Eventually the passion took a back seat to adulthood and responsibility. I believed -for one reason or another- that hobbies like these were only to be fiddled with after you’ve first eaten all the vegetables off your plate.
It was only a few years ago when I unshackled myself from this lie; when I finally accepted that writing, even if only for myself, needed a place of priority. Writing is passion. Writing is life.
I returned to my old flame ready to pick up where I had left off only to find that my skills were like that of an awkward teenage virgin trying to unclasp a lover’s bra. I was out of practice, embarrassed, and ashamed. I wanted to stop everything. I was afraid that I’d never get back what I lost.
Love outweighed fear. Writing was a sacred part of myself that I wanted back, so I scoured the world (wide web) looking for sage advice that would guide me back into the intimacy I once had with writing.
I remember stumbling across How Not to Write a Novel: 7 Things That Will Doom Your Novel (& How to Avoid Them), by James Scott Bell. It was a tongue-in-cheek list of all the things to do (or not to do) in order to not write a novel. Included in the article was a short listing of writing exercises that I decided would be beneficial to engage: “The Five-Minute Nonstop,” “The Page-Long Sentence,” and “The List Maker.”
The idea behind exercising was to simply write. Just write. Intentionally put words to paper (or screen) and ignore the inner critic who offers every reason to give up. I called the time in practice, couple’s therapy.
Soon my writing picked up and even improved. And though my time in couple’s therapy is now not as frequent, my time with writing has increased in quantity and quality.
If I’ve learned anything over the past few years, it is that the art of improvement never ends, and if you don’t keep what you have, it will easily slip from your grasp.