“It is a mistake to think that the practice of my art has become easy to me. I assure you, dear friend, no one has given so much care to the study of composition as I. There is scarcely a famous master in music whose works I have not frequently and diligently studied.” –Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
We often celebrate the masters, geniuses, and prodigies of the arts and sciences as if what appears to us effortless really is effort-less: the talents of Einstein, Mozart, and Da Vinci are likened to super powers, gifted to them by the gods upon their arrival on Earth.
I find that people regard their favorite writers in this way. We forget that they too had to learn how to write from the same, basic building blocks. J.K. Rowling’s first book was not of the same grandeur as Harry Potter; it was but a little tale about a rabbit named Rabbit. The writing that we know and love of hers is a result of years and years of…well, writing. Along with triathletes and concert violinists, writers must practice to hone their craft.
Like sticking with a gym regime or a diet, developing and maintaining a writing practice is difficult and depends significantly on self-discipline. To help you with this process, here are some recommendations:
- Pick an Optimal Time & Schedule: I write best in the morning, when my mind is clear and my heart is full of optimism. I feel open to new ideas, and I still have the physical and mental energy to bring them into fruition. Eventually, I’d like to write every morning, to weave writing into my routine, to make it as natural and necessary as showering.
- Pick a Place(s): I work best in libraries and coffee shops. I like to have a baseline stimulus around me—whether it is the quiet air of intellectual consumption or the hustle and bustle of caffeine-crazed customers—something that I can observe for inspiration or ignore if need be. When I am completely alone in my apartment, I get lost in irrelevant thoughts and more often than not find myself browsing every social media site that I can log into.
- Set the Mood: I write with a cup of coffee, almost always. I had a friend who always ate Goldfish when she wrote. Find something—be it a drink, snack, music, or outfit—that helps ease you into the mood.
- Keep the Pen Moving & Don’t Make Excuses: Although “writer’s block” is really a fictitious disease that writers use to justify their bad habits, there are times when you will be stuck. Maybe you need a break from your characters; maybe you don’t know what they’re going to do next; maybe you’ve lost sight of what story you really wanted to tell. That’s okay. But you still have to write. Transcribe your thoughts word for word. Compose haikus about the weather. Do a freewrite about the most interesting fact that you learned recently. You may be encountering a roadblock with your main writing project, but that does not mean that you don’t have other thoughts and ideas to express.
- Establish Check Points: I depend heavily on deadlines to help keep me on track. If you don’t have an externally enforced deadline (class, job), plan to share your work (yes, even a work-in-progress) with a friend by a particular day. This person is like your gym buddy or personal trainer; they’ll motivate you to stay accountable to your practice. While developing a writing practice ultimately depends on you—your motivation, your dedication—you most certainly do not have to go about it alone. Find your supportive network.
With that, I wish you luck!