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Muscle Memory–Why A Writing Practice Matters

As a veteran writer, I am often asked by aspiring writers if I write every day. I have an idea that my answer isn’t the one the person asking wants to hear. By now, you’ve probably figured out that the answer is, “Yes, I do.” I write every day, mostly because I love crawling into the writing space. It’s early in the morning, the light is low and the coffee is very dark and strong. Quite simply, I like escaping into the place where something surprising and wonderful might land on the page, even though some mornings it doesn’t.

Beginning writers sometimes don’t like to hear that good writing takes practice. I’m not sure why, since everything, from cooking to weightlifting to gardening, does. Only by doing and doing again, often making mistakes and then learning how to correct them, do we ever get good at anything.

I once spent several months working with a personal trainer named Lucas. One day I asked Lucas why lifting a particular free weight a certain way the first time was so difficult and on the second try, it was way easier. He said it had to do with muscle memory. Once the muscle learns how to do something, it gets better each time, because it remembers something useful from the time before.

Everyone who writes is afraid that he or she just might not have it, the it being some innate talent. The truth is that no one does. All anyone who yearns to write has is the ability to sit down as often as possible and put something down on the page.