I recently read an interesting theory about writers. Essentially it went like this: every writer has 1 million words of crap in them. That means that you really don’t hit your stride as a writer until you get those million words out.
On some levels it makes sense. Writing is like exercise. It builds up your metaphorical muscles. By writing constantly you’re able to get ideas on paper while generating new ones along the way. Sometimes when we get stuck, the best way to get over the hump is to just sit down and write.
You don’t have to have a specific topic in mind. Just sit down and start writing about anything. With enough practice your well trained muscles will kick in and help guide you.
I teach an adult literacy class and my students don’t just need to learn to read, but they need to learn how to write. One of the hardest concepts for them to grasp is the idea of writing first and editing later.
My students get frustrated when they have trouble with spelling, grammar, punctuation and sentence structure. They’re stuck on the idea that you can’t write unless you write perfectly. I have to stress to them that all writers have trouble with those things. That’s why there are editors.
I’m a terrible speller and most of my grammar knowledge is based on what sounds right, it doesn’t always come from an English text book. Over the years I’ve taught myself to just sit down and write. I don’t worry about making mistakes along the way. I just let everything spill out onto the page. Then I go back in and edit.
By learning to separate my inner writer and my inner editor, I’ve been able to double my word count. That means I can get those million words of crap out of my head faster and I can make myself a better writer that much sooner.
I have no idea how many of those million words I’ve put on paper since I started writing. I hope I’ve gotten them all out by now. All I know is that writing seems to be getting a little bit easier every day.
What do you think? Are there any naturally great writers out there? How to do you practice writing?