This week Christina Katz’ newsletter, The Prosperous Writer, resonated with me. Again. Each week I find myself eagerly awaiting the arrival of this free, weekly newsletter in my e-mail inbox. (To subscribe, check out the top right corner of the home page on Christina’s website.)
This week Christina talked about writing experience. In her comments, she made the analogy of a writer gaining experience as being similar to someone gaining experience as a race car driver. Think Mario Andretti. Did he become a great driver by sitting around watching re-runs of the Brady Bunch and Family Feud? No. He got out there and took laps around the track. Over and over again, and that’s what we writers need to do. As Christina says:
If you want to get the hang of this writing thing, you are going to have to keep driving around the track, over and over, practicing and practicing, until you feel confident and comfortable in the driver’s seat. And then you’ll get to enjoy the feeling of your own rubber gripping the road, whether you “win” or not.
I remember about ten years ago I was sitting in my career counselor’s office, paying her $80 per hour, telling her that one thing I’d always wanted to do was write. I threw out the idea that maybe I should just quit my job and go for it. Insert long pause here. Then, she proceeded to ask me several questions: Was I currently writing? No. Had I heard of Hedgebrook (a rural writing retreat space for women on Whidbey Island)? Um, no. Had I published anything? Well, I was the editor of my high school paper and I’d had a short story published in my college literary magazine. She didn’t say anything but the look on her face said it all. I had very little experience. And, I wasn’t creating any writing experiences either. I was good at dreaming about being a writer, but not so good at doing anything to make that happen.
Thankfully since then, I’ve gained some writing experience. As a result, I’m more comfortable in the driver’s seat (to borrow Christina’s analogy). I love that feeling when the rubber hits the road and my hard work and my words pay off, either by earning me a new clip, or by touching the heart of someone who reads my words.
But sometimes, like over the last few weeks, I have trouble revving my engines to make another lap around the track. During those times, I find myself reverting to the person I was when I sat in that career counselor’s office. I dream of the successful writer I can be, but I’m not doing anything to get there.
That’s when I have to stop and regroup. What are my goals? (Yes, I do have them.) Great! What do I need to do to move myself towards those goals? Take action. What action can I take in this moment? That’s when I look to my list and take one step. And then another. And another. Until finally, I’m out of the funk or the lull or the fear and I can get out of the pit. That’s when I’m ready to make another lap around the track and gain some experience.