Have you ever compared writing to one of those twisty, spinning kicks you’ve probably seen martial artists do in the movies? No? Let me explain:
A long time ago, when I signed up for my very first martial arts lesson, I had no idea that it would ever stick. I have never been naturally coordinated in an athletic sense. I had other reasons for enrolling in martial arts: it was good exercise, it was a fun activity to do with my daughters, and it just might possibly teach me something useful. Turns out, it did.
But here was the problem: the farther along that I advanced through the ranks, the closer I came to having to learn how to do some of those twisty, spinning kicks, just like what you see in the movies. How on earth would a klutz like me ever do that?
I had a lot to learn, just as we do when we grow as a writer:
1. First, I had to get rid of my negative thinking and think positive. Yes, I could do it.
It’s the same in writing. Anyone who can write one page per day can have a book by the end of the year.
2. Then I learned to take baby steps, paving the way for more complicated steps later.
As in writing, we don’t usually write a NYT bestseller straight out of the chute (not that it can’t happen, but that’s the exception for a few very gifted artists).
3. When it came time to try out those complicated steps, well sure, I fell on my butt. A lot. The floor was padded in the karate studio, so we didn’t get hurt. I picked myself up and tried again.
Writers do, too. Writers keep going, even after getting knocked down by something disastrous, say like 5 rejections in a single day. We keep going because we have to.
4. I learned a few tricks and techniques to help me stay upright. Not that I ever executed those twisty moves with any sort of ninja-like grace, but at least I was doing them.
Writers learn techniques, too. We spend years learning our craft, trying out new techniques, finding what works so that our stories will flow to their best possible endings.
5. And then I practiced. The harder the curriculum became, the more I practiced.
Writers practice, too. For some, it takes a million words of practice writing before writing something publishable.
The bottom line? My twisty, spinning kicks were never very effective, but I did them. They were the best I could do. It wasn’t a competition. It was all about achievement.
A multi-published writer friend once asked me why I didn’t submit my work to market more often. “Because it’s not very good now,” I said, “and I can make it better.” My friend replied: “Sue, you can always make it better. But this is the best you can do right now. So send it out.”
My friend was right. It’s time to let go of our work when it’s the best we can do. And then we have to get busy and write the next story. It will be new and even better.