Writing is a Muscle
To write you need to use your mental muscles, in the same that completing a physical activity requires you to use your physical muscles. What a lot of writers don’t realise is that to become a stronger, more effective writer—just like an athlete—you need to build those muscles.
Through repetition and practice you train your writing muscle to be able to do more. What is actually happening is that the more you write, the parts of your brain that are doing the work are building new pathways, strengthening the connections between your neurons so that you can perform the task better and with greater ease in the future.
The way to train is to write an—as a writer—this is something that you should be doing regularly. It is important that you recognise this element of writing for a couple of different reasons.
Firstly, you don’t necessarily have the same stamina as other writers. The more experienced and better trained the writer, the easier it is for them to pick up a pen again after a break, or more readily switch projects, or genres or voice or style. Just like an athlete, sometimes you need to warm up your writing muscles, especially if you haven’t used them in a while. Those who dip in and out of writing often have to work up to it again, whilst those who continuously write will have increased stamina levels. I’ve been doing this—training my writing muscles—for some years now, and am pretty good at this, but there are others who are able to do it a lot easier than I can. You may find that you struggle with tasks that other writers can do very simply, especially if you’ve stepped away from writing for a little while, but it’s important to not beat yourself up over it. Keep writing and it’ll come.
The second reason is that it’s not uncommon to burn out if you overdo it. It’s very tempting to jump right into a massive project. The excitement builds up, you’ve got all these ideas brimming in your mind and you want to get them out. You put a lot of energy into that project and then, eventually, it starts to become harder, the energy levels dip or you just can face it anymore. If you’re used to jogging a couple of times a week and then you suddenly try and run a marathon, you’re either not going to get very far or, if you manage to finish, it’s going to hurt for a considerable amount of time. The same is true for writing. When you’re writing and you come across a stumbling block or you’re struggling, take a look back and see if you’ve been overdoing it. There’s no shame in taking a break to recharge, if anything it’ll be good for you in the long run. Try focusing on writing something else in the meantime.
As the old adages go, practice makes perfect, and if you don’t use it you will lose it. You’ll never completely lose the ability but if you do stop writing—and stop your training—you will find that certain things don’t come as easily as they used to. Write more often and it will consistently get easier to keep it up. Whatever you do, keep writing regularly, and keep those muscles up.
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© 2019 David Chitty
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.