It’s often said 10,000 repetitions leads to mastery. Practice something enough, you become good at it.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Every time I get the motorcycle out of the garage for the season, I feel better about my riding skill than at the same time the year before. Turns feel more graceful, shifting feels smoother, and I feel more relaxed in the saddle.
Every ride is practice. I may take the long way home from time to time for fun, but it’s also an opportunity to put more miles under the tires and more time in at the controls. If miles are reps, then I’ve got some time before I hit 10,000, but I’m plugging away.
It applies to karate for sure, whether we’re talking about kata or specific techniques. My dojo stresses hard the importance of practicing at home, and when review rolls around, it’s easy to pick out the students who have been practicing and those who haven’t been. Some say those of us progressing through the ranks make it look easy, but they’re only seeing our class time, not the many hours we’re putting in at home on our own.
I’ve been spending more time on the weights and on the track than doing karate at home of late, but I still get my ass to class and get my practice in. Over the next two days, I plan to put in at least an hour each day as last-minute prep for a karate seminar this weekend. I don’t want to be a guy they pick out as not practicing my art enough.
It’s all about practice, practice, practice, and it applies to everything, even writing.
Yes, that’s right, you should be practicing writing. Though instead of 10,000 repetitions, you’re looking at a million words or so. The saying goes something like this:
Every writer has a million words of bullshit stuck in their head. Once he gets these million words out of the way, the real writing starts to appear.
I first heard this from Mike Baron at a comic convention, and it’s been attributed to Ray Bradbury and several other greats. Get your butt in the chair and get writing if you want to get better. Writing is a craft that can be learned, practiced, and improved, just like any other skill.
It pains me to look at my older work. Everything from my word choices to my sentence structure to my dialog just seems… raw. I have no doubt I’ve become a better writer over the years, and I think many of my colleagues and readers agree.
Every writer will tell a similar story. Ask Tom Piccirilli what he thinks of Dark Father sometime. Most of us have trunk novels that we later came to realize are part of the million words we needed to get out of our brains (I have two). Many writers who appear to have just arrived on the scene have a stash of cringe-worthy sales to now-defunct small press rags they hope will never see the light of day again.
Now, are these works really that bad? Not necessarily, but you get the idea. A writer’s craft changes and evolves. Some may contribute it to age, or maturity, or studying others’ works or taking classes, but it all amounts to practice. Keep hammering the keys until the words start to play nice. Write, rewrite, and repeat.
Which brings us to the only bit of writing advice that counts:
Put ass in chair.
You can get better.
You will get better.