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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Writing Regularly - When Will I Learn?

I remember watching Andre Agassi play at Wimbledon in 1992. If you’ve followed his career at all, you know that in those early years he was always lambasted for acting like a kid. Imagine that! It just so happens he was a kid! Badmouthing his eating habits, practice habits, and just about everything else you could think of. The badmouthing drove me nuts. After all, he was just 22 and you only get to be 22 once in your life!

But at that time in his career, his practice sessions and workout time were probably far less then they became later in life. During the final days of Wimbledon 1992, I remember one of the commentators, perhaps Bud Collins, telling the story that leading up to Wimbledon, Andre hadn’t played much tennis at all, or even practiced much. Then one day not too long before the start of the tournament, he grabbed his racket, hit some balls, and let his team know he was ready to go play some ball at Wimbledon.

And that 1992 Wimbledon became the first of his eight grand slam titles.

Now why, you may ask, am I bringing up tennis on a writing blog? Well aside from the fact that I miss the days of Andre tennis desperately, it has bearing on my writing subject today – lapses in your writing.

The difference between practicing your writing regularly and only picking up your pen or keyboard on a whim.

Andre Agassi was filled with incredible raw talent and was perhaps one of the few players who could pick up a racket on a whim and go on to win a major tournament on his next breath. And there ARE writers out there I’ve read about who write in spurts. They might write for a week straight and not write anything else for a month, then come back and go on another spurt and so on until they’ve completed their masterpiece.

But most of us writers aren’t so fortunate. I know I am not. While out this last four months on a combination of puppy maternity leave and long illness, I have completely lost touch with my story, and I know a few quick practice strokes of the pen aren’t going to be enough to launch me into a spectacular string of writing sessions.

The end result? I’m going to have to re-introduce myself to my own story as if we were strangers meeting for the first time. That means taking up a lot of time covering old ground – precious time that I do not have in abundance. And all because I didn’t keep up with regular writing sessions.

Sure, I can review my rough outline, re-read a few character sketches, but the writing itself is full of nuances and flavors you easily forget if you haven’t been writing consistently. Even the tone of the story can be lost if left to lapse over a long period of time. It means getting off to a rough start and likely having scenes strung together that seem somehow detached from one another like they were written in different eras. And in my case, that’s how it will be – I haven’t written anything on my novel since the last quarter of 2007. And we’re almost two full months into 2008 already.

I’ve let my writing lapse before, gotten myself into this same torturous process of having to re-introduce myself to my story – been forced to waste a lot of time. You’d think by now I’d learn. I hope this will be the last time I have to go through this.

But maybe all is not lost. Perhaps by hearing about what falling off the writing wagon does to me, someone else will be inspired not to let lapses occur in their writing schedule – at least those of you who aren’t virtuosos with a pen or keyboard the way Andre is with a tennis racket.

I pray that each writer out there will be able to keep a continuous schedule of writing in whatever form that may be – five days a week, six, or maybe just one day a week in a longer chunk of time. Do whatever it takes to stay in intimate contact with the nuances of your story – and keep it moving forward. It is so much easier then having to constantly re-create the wheel.

God bless you in your writing endeavors, and pray for me in mine.

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