Oh, that annoying sentence we all have been told at some point in our lifes, mainly if we create any kind of art. The sentence of “if you want to get better at what you are doing, you have to practice”.
Practice. Practice! PRACTICE!
That’s the only thing everybody tells us to improve, to get better, to do a better craft. And you know what?
They are right.
I know, it is horrible, it is the worst thing ever. But it is true. And totally worth it.
Practice seems to be a word of dispair, a horrible situation that we do not know how to approach, and, even worse, how to overcome. If I don’t know how to write, how the heck am I supposed to know how to get better?! That’s our first answer to the dilemma, isn’t it? Well, the question we ask contains the answer we are looking for. In order to get better at writing… I should write more.
Let me tell you a story about myself: I started writing when I was 10 years old. At the age of 11, I knew my life should be devoted to writing, as I understood I had to be a writer. And since then, I have done my best to improve my writing craft. At that age, I wrote my frist short (short-short) story, and I showed it to my teacher (one of the best teachers I have ever had). He liked it, but he suggested me to improve my descriptions, since I had almost none on that manuscript. So, I did it, and for the following years, I read and studied a lot about descriptions and how to do them. Nowadays, I am usually told that my descriptions are quite unique and “visual”, so I have accomplished that, at least, in a way.
Around 10 years ago, I started role-playing. And I love it. It introduced me to the world of instant storytelling, which was completely different to any form of creation I knew until that time. So, I learnt how to be a storyteller. And I spent the following years telling stories in form of role-playing. And I learnt a lot, and that was reflected on my texts.
But, this process of practicing is not limited to years. You should, and must, improve in just the course of months… even weeks. If you write every single time you have the proper availability for it.
Of course, I have had highs and lows since I was 10 (I am now 26), and some times writing has been easier than others, which is completely fine.
However, I have comprehended something very important: Practice is key to improve, but the commitment you make with it is even more essential than that.
Paraphrasing Stephen King, if you write around 2,000 words per day, during a three-month span, that’s a total of 180,000 words. Of course, I am not saying you have to write everyday (although, you should), and for each day, have 2,000 words. But, you get the point: if you write that number of words for that given time, you are going to achieve that amazing number of 180,000 words, which is way longer than any short story, short novel or even some of the actual “normal length” novels. If you use your free time correctly, you will write a lot, more than you could ever imagine. For example, last November I made my first NaNoWriMo, which is a writing challenge. If you take it, you are supposed to write 50,000 words by the end of the month, which is not a novel but half-ish of it. And I did. And it was totally unbelievable for me, at the beginning of the month, to write that tremendous amount of words. I didn’t believe it was possible under any circumstances. And I did it. I realised I can do it, because I have done it. Since then, I have written every single day and I have produced more than ever.
And I have improved more than ever. Right now, if I look at any page of those that I wrote on November, I would almost be ashamed of my writing. I got more vocabulary, better structures to use, I can quickly come to an answer to a problem of the plot than before… I have improved all of my skills at once and almost without noticing. It is when comparing my old self with my current self that I know what I have evolved into.
At the time I started November, writing 500 words per day was, for me, a torture. Imagining a solution for a problem, a new scenario, a new character was work for days, and nights without sleeping. I had to do it, but I didn’t want to. Right now, I do easily write 3,000 words per day and I want to write more, and I am always moving ideas in my mind, structuring them and keeping them safe, because I can’t write them down today, since I am really busy with the others, but I know I will write them some where in the future.
Nevertheless, this situation has a negative face… The day I don’t write, I don’t plot, I don’t create… That day I am grumpy and nervous and stressed, because I know how much I could be doing! But, that’s another topic, about why we should have 48-hour days.