I had a conversation with an artist today, who wanted me to write the content for her web page. While discussing our respective creative outlets I said, “People think that anybody can write, just like people think that anybody can draw.”
She told me, “Anybody can draw. I’ve been teaching drawing for years, and I’ve only had one student, I couldn’t teach. She just kept saying, ‘I can’t do this. I can’t do this.’
“And she couldn’t,” I said, “Because she kept telling you that.”
I realized that I hadn’t said what I meant. What I meant was, people believe that they should be able to sit down and write something, a letter, a poem, a novel, just because they know how to string words together into something that might resemble a sentence.
But if you want to be a good writer, a good artist (a good anything really) you have to do it every day. You have to work at it and think about it and learn about it. It helps if you can talk to other people who do it, especially other people who are better at it than you. If also helps if those other people are willing to critique your work, to push you to get better.
The beautiful-horrible thing is, that old adage “practice makes perfect” is wrong. You’ll never be perfect. (Even Fitzgerald could have improve his prose through a more reserved approach to adverbs.) But you will improve, little by little, day by day.
So sit down, shut up, and write something.