Word count: 722 words
Reading time: Less than 3 minutes
Are you one of those people who thinks that change is bad? Read on to learn about the benefits of fluctuations…
My husband and I went for a walk in Capilano Canyon last week. We skipped the famous suspension bridge and instead hiked up to the Cleveland Dam, then wound our way down a rather steep trail to the river where we perched to read for a bit. (Reading in the outdoors is one of our favourite activities!)
While my husband tried to get his equilibrium on the rocks, he observed that he notices a great fluctuation in his balance between different yoga classes.
He said this like it was surprising.
I looked at him quizzically, over the top of my half-glasses and said, “but isn’t everything in life always fluctuating?”
Think about it. If you do a sport, don’t you have a good workout/practice one day and a not-so-good workout the next? When you cook, doesn’t your marinara sauce occasionally taste far more delicious than other times? And when you consider your relationships — whether with a partner, your kids or your friends — isn’t there an ebb and flow that makes some days better and others worse?
Most importantly, when you write, don’t you some times find it much harder than others?
I know when I write, the words occasionally flow easily, almost as if I were simply turning on an exquisitely calibrated faucet. At other times, it feels more like work. Not physically hard work like lifting bricks (I once had an editor who often said: “If you ever feel sorry for yourself as a writer, think about what it’d be like to lift bricks for a living.”) But hard in the sense of tiresome or frustrating — like being a car salesperson or a kindergarten teacher.
And at still other times, I virtually have to sweat the words out. It’s awkward and uncomfortable, and frustrating. I manage it only by giving myself a word count goal and by refusing to allow myself to get up from my chair until I’ve hit the magic number of words.
Yes, my writing fluctuates all the time. But here are three things I’ve learned:
1) The more I write, the easier and the better it gets. The discipline of writing this column, for example (my 386th in just over seven years), has helped me feel calm and relaxed about writing. Seven hundred and fifty words? Yeah, I can write them in about 40 minutes. I know because I’ve done it 386 times.
2) How I feel about writing has absolutely no impact on the quality of it. I’ve learned that I can feel good while I’m writing something and it might be garbage. And I can feel pained and uneasy about something and it can be reasonably good. The counterintuitive relationship between our feelings about the writing experience and the finished product fascinates me. Apart from demonstrating our own relentless inability to judge ourselves it also goes to show that what feels good sometimes leads to bad, and vice versa.
3) If I don’t write a great first draft, I still have the opportunity to edit it into something that’s significantly better. The most galvanizing thing about writing is it’s not like a multiple-choice exam where you have one chance to get the right answer. Instead, it’s like an endless open-book test. You can consult your sources. You can look to see how other writers have addressed the same problem. Of course you can always fix spelling and grammar but, even better, you can move entire paragraphs around. You can delete whole sections. You can add and subtract words to your heart’s content. Finally, you can put the work aside for a day (or more) and decide whether there’s a better way to write it.
There’s no secret password that helps experienced writers produce excellent work all the time. Everything always fluctuates.
Warren Buffet says: “Look at market fluctuations as your friend rather than your enemy.” Just replace the word “market” with “writing” and follow his advice.
Do your feelings about your own writing fluctuate over time? How does that feel? What have you discovered about yourself as you’ve experienced these fluctuations? We can all learn from each other so please share your thoughts with my readers and me by commenting below. (If you don’t see the comments box, click here and then scroll to the end.)
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