This is one of the best pieces of advice I can give to anyone looking to do a little writing of their own. Just write. It’s painfully simple, of course, and seems quite obvious, but those two words summarize what more than four years of serious writing have taught me. To put things another way, if I hadn’t just sat down and forced myself to keep writing and keep writing, even on the days when I didn’t really want to, even when it didn’t seem like my writing was ever going to go anywhere, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.
When I started writing, it was difficult to actually focus on the act of writing itself. I wanted to write a little bit, then go back and pick over those sentence and paragraphs for hours at a time until they came out the way I wanted them to. But that’s not a good way to do things. The key is to keep writing and keep writing and then once you’re finished [or have reached some calculable goal], go back and check for errors and coherency. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so it wasn’t easy to ignore those little mistakes that I was sure I’d made and concentrate on writing that next sentence and that next paragraph.
Time and effort did eventually pay off, of course, and now I can rattle off several pages of content without feeling that need and run back and pick it apart. I can even write an entire novel without having to do that. That’s not to say that it’s fine to be sloppy, I do want to leave my writing with some coherency instead of coming back days later and trying to figure out what I wrote. There’s a balance. Learn to write well, but also learn to keep going even when you’re sure there’s some mistakes back there that need fixing. They’re not going anywhere, so don’t worry about them.
Continuing to write also has another benefit: you will keep getting better. Once you start realizing the recurring mistakes you make and the ways in which your writing can get better, the better your first drafts will be. When I started writing, my writing was terrible. But I kept writing because I wanted to get better. I wrote more and I read more, I absorbed what I read from others and what I could see that my own writing needed.
No one is born a great writer. Great writers are made through the fire of effort, through years of honing their craft and being willing to learn from their mistakes. Even realizing that you make mistakes is a way to get better. Once I thought my poor writing was grand, at least as good as many published authors, but I allowed others to tell me that I wrong about that. I still had a long ways to go. I still have a long ways to go today.
I’ll keep getting better, though, because I’ll keep writing.