“. . . out of the mountains that you write some molehills will be published.”
– Brenda Ueland (1891 – 1985) If You Want to Write
In high school, we performed a musical every Spring. We put on Oliver, South Pacific, Annie Get Your Gun, and Showboat. Mrs. Poe held tryouts in March and the chosen cast spent two months rehearsing four nights each week plus two dress rehearsals, choir practice and private coaching for the lead parts. All this practice for one matinee and two evening performances.
Randy Hester is the principal flutist for the Columbus Symphony. For each concert, he practices 15 hours on his own and another 10 hours with the orchestra. If he’s the featured soloist, it’s more. Abby Ross, a marathon runner from Key Biscayne, spent three years running a marathon every month. To prepare, she ran an hour every day and then one run of 2-3 hours each week. All this in anticipation of marathon day. My painter friend CJ from Albuquerque uses a sketchbook. She fills it with notes, clippings, and lots of “really bad” little drawings. She knows about practice.
So what makes me think I should be able to just sit down and write a 200 page novel with no preparation? Why should writing be different from music or painting or sports? The truth is, it’s not. For every million words I write, I hope to publish a few thousand. And I have to let myself experiment, push my edges, just move this pen along for awhile before I stumble upon the sounds that sing. My job is to just keep the pen going. The rest will come.
I’m lucky because I have writing practice. When I get stuck, I know the answer lies in more writing, more time spent at the page, not less. I rarely solve my writing problems by thinking them through. Rather, my pen works them out.
So the next time you hear me whine about how inefficient writing is, remind me of Randy with his flute, Abby pumping her legs down some road, and CJ drawing little doodles on a blank piece of paper. Remind me to get out my pen and write. It is the only thing that works.
Nita(making molehills out of mountains)Sweeney
(c) 2004 by Nita Sweeney