A martial arts master once told me, “You have to practice a kick at least 10,000 times before you start to understand it.” Now, if he had told me that on my first day of class, I would probably have been a little discouraged, but I wasn’t a beginner at the time and I conceded that he was right. It coincided with my experience. Even if, as a beginner, I could do the kick without falling over after the first ten tries or so, I really didn’t have any idea what the kick was about. I didn’t have any clue about technique until I had done it 10,000 times. And that 10,000 times was only the beginning. At that point – after 10,000 tries – I was only scratching the surface.
So if you have to practice your kicks 10,000 times before you start to understand them. . . then as a writer you have to practice your craft at least the same amount. In writing, there is no substitute for experience. You may have an ear, you may have talent, but in the end a writer becomes a writer simply by writing a lot. The good news is, the sooner you get started, the sooner you=re on your way to understanding the craft.
When a certain level of competency has been achieved – and it will come sooner than you think if you keep at it – then you will write as if it were second nature. It will simply be a reflex that happens automatically. That doesn’t mean you can stop developing and growing, it just means you won=t have to focus so much on process. You will be confident that this time, just like last time and next time, you’ll be able to produce a good piece of writing. Achieving that confidence and that competence is worth the time it takes to get there.
Have you done your 10,000 kicks today? If you’re having trouble getting your daily writing in, try a different approach. Compose into a tape recorder while you’re on a walk. Treat yourself to coffee and a scone at the coffee shop while you write. Take your notebook with you to your kid’s soccer game. No one says you have to do the writing the same way in the same place, so long as you do it.