I suppose I am revealing my age, but my first short story was published in 1976. An embarrassingly inept teenage story, but it was published.
It took me a long time after that, though, to call myself a ‘writer’ – still less to feel I was competent, though I had been trained in the art and eagerly launched myself into practical writing – which is the only way to extend that learning.
What became evident is that there is a gulf between knowing how to write in theory – and doing it in practise. Having the theory is ‘consciously competent’ – the writer knows the stuff and can assemble something per technique. But it shows – the resulting material usually looks contrived, certainly to an experienced eye. There’s a step beyond – ‘unconsciously competent’ – where the content flows and the bones don’t seem obvious.
The way to get from one to the other is by doing. There is no other way. And that also means a lot of doing – ten thousand hours, typically. Or a million words.
But there’s a tip I can share to make it easier. Relax into it. Don’t sweat it. Talented writers at the ‘conscious competence’ stage are well on the path. And the way to make that competence part of their soul – to make it automatic – is to relax, literally – to put that thinking into the background. And write. Lots.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013