A guest post by Sarah Dale
“How do you do it? How do you become a writer?” I’ve been asked that a number of times. “I’ve always wanted to write a novel.” Most often these questions come with a sense of poignancy, as of gently mourning a missed opportunity, a love lost. They’re searching for the magic. That elusive “thing” that makes one person a writer, and another not—or perhaps not yet.
Of course, nobody really wants to hear the answer I give, which is simply, “Write.” In order to become a writer, one must write. And write. And write some more.
Nooooo! The horror! That sounds like…PRACTICE! And suddenly you’re face to face with somebody’s frustrated inner child, flashing back to the stinky piano teacher or the Saturday morning swim coach or whatever horrible, frustrating situation every single one of us has had—being FORCED to practice something we didn’t really want to do. Or maybe we did want to do it, but dang it! This practice bs was sucking ALL THE FUN out of it. Ugh. Dude. I hear you.
What they don’t see, yet, is that therein lies the magic. They don’t call it Practicing Magic for nothing. In this case, we have a madly powerful ally. Our brains.
Our brains operate best and most effectively by chunking small pieces of information into larger chunks, thus speeding up the processing time. An easy example of this is a phone number. When you remember your phone number, your brain has made it easier by making 5-5-5-6-2-3-5-5-8-7 into 555-623-5587. Boom. You just had to think about three pieces of information instead of ten. Super-efficient, right? Plus, when you do the thing (or say the number, or sing the song, or start the car, or write the descriptive sentence) over and over again, your brain gets even better and even faster with it.
The beauty piece of this, is the side effect. Practicing—repeatedly making these things click along in the brain, frees up space that gets filled with other thoughts. Different, wonderful, creative, magical thoughts. Thoughts that point you toward different roads of investigation, or a better way to move your arms in backstroke, or a radical plot twist.
That’s the magic. That’s how you become a writer, or a musician, painter, game designer, athlete, *insert your passion here. * You have your most valuable ally literally looking out your eyes right now.
I wish you all the best. Now, go. Begin your practice.
About the Author
Sarah Dale is an author, mom, daughter, step-mom, pack member, friend, dog-walker, cat-appreciator, library book balancer, word lover, think thinker and picture-taker living in Lincoln, Nebraska, just generally trying to get things done. Learn more about Sarah at her website.