Sometimes I write stuff. I know, it's a blog, and stuff has to get there somehow, so of course I write stuff. Well, as you may have noticed (or probably not), sometimes I go long stretches without writing anything at all. (I suppose that it doesn't necessarily follow that because I'm not blogging, I haven't been writing anything. Trust me. Not writing much at all in those times.)
A couple of times this summer and fall, I was asked to write a couple of concert reviews. I delayed, dragged my feet, forgot about them, and then finally, forced myself to do them.
They were awful.
Something happened, and I went back and looked at something I had written last year, my end of the year album review. OK, looks like maybe I wrote it at the beginning of this year. Whatevs. I actually like it. Funny, I felt like my voice was in there. And I figured out what (I think) made it better.
I had been writing. A LOT. In November, I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which is writing a 50,000 word piece of fiction in 30 days. Plus, I had produced a ton of album and video reviews for the music magazine that shall not be named. I was writing a lot. When you do something that much, you have to work really, really hard to not get better at it.
But it can be a perishable skill. Use it or lose it, they say. For me, writing is perishable. Sometimes it can be a good thing to get away from something for a bit, take a break. For whatever reason, I can play most of my own music after not having touched a guitar in a while. There are occasions where this practice can even result in surprising yourself with what you are able to create.
With writing, I have to be doing it. So just over three weeks ago, I started something. I wrote in my spiral notebook for three pages each day. (This idea comes from Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way, an excellent resource for breaking through creative blocks.) Some days I might do more, but I do at least that.
(VERY IMPORTANT: it doesn't have to be good. It just has to fill three pages. Judging and critiquing and taking hours and hours to do this doesn't help all that much.)
Big whoop. For me, I find that keeping track of things helps me make sure I do them consistently. Somewhere, I read that Jerry Seinfeld writes a joke a day, every day. The article that had this tidbit (I forget where from. Sorry) suggested marking off on a calendar each day you accomplish some minimum of whatever task you are wanting to get better at. So I started doing that. You start to get addicted to seeing the X's add up, filling the page. As of today, I am starting my fourth week of daily writing practice.
As we've established, I have written stuff before. Interviews, reviews, a crappy dystopian novel. But last week, I forget which day, I wrote something that I really liked. I liked it so much, that I said to myself, "I'm a writer." That was kind of a big thing for me. Now, in my brain, I know that if I am writing, and doing it consistently, I'm "a writer." But this was emotional. Feelings and stuff.
But I wouldn't have gotten there if I hadn't started. If I hadn't been writing pages of boring terribleness.
You have to do the work.