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Why Practice Writing?

I'm reading a book on Kindle called Writing Habit Mastery - How to Write 2,000 Words a Day and Forever Cure Writer's Block. Do creative ideas come to you when you're in the shower, or out for a walk, or someplace other than were we do our writing. The author's explanation for this is that we are afraid to write, so we allow our imaginations to do their thing when we're in a situation in which we know that it would be impossible (or at least damned inconvenient) to write anything down.

If your mind races all over the place in conversation with friends, or when driving, or at times when your body is engaged but your mind is free to roam, you probably think of yourself as a creative person, and I'm not saying you're wrong. Maybe you live with the characters from your unwritten stories and novels, and it seems like putting their adventures down on paper is a mere formality, and that the truly valuable and miraculous part of the process, the act of imagining your characters, is already done.

But when you make the time to start writing, you discover that the imagining is the easy part and that writing can be an ugly, humiliating and dispiriting business. Characters refuse to perform when you sit down at the keyboard. Non-fiction essays flow places other than where the outline says they're supposed to go. The structure of an argument bumps heads with the images, phrases, and rhythms that take over when the fingers are actually in contact with the keyboard or the pen with the paper.

Possibly worst of all, when social media provides our primary means of putting our "writing" in front of an audience, the essays, stories, jokes and diatribes that we pour our passion into, that we work and re-work, hacking away whole paragraphs which pleased us but which don't advance the objective of the piece, garner no response whatsoever. Meanwhile, the list of the top ten albums we remember listening to as teenagers prompts 50 replies and a spirited discussion among our friends and "friends."

If we want validation, pages views, likes or the attention of the search engines, there are definitely easier ways to achieve that goal than by toiling to produce and refine text.

I have resolved to write 500 words per day for two main reasons. First, I like to make videos and podcasts, and in both of those efforts it's helpful to have something to read. The teleprompter at the local TV station doesn't do me much good if it has not text to display. Also, I've found it much easier to read text that I have written myself. I know the intended rhythm of sentences, and I don't write words that I don't know how to pronounce.

The second reason for writing involves the cultivation of imagination. Writing at a certain time every day is like taking my imagination to the gym. Exercising when I feel like it produces no visible effect on my body. Going to the gym on a regular schedule and half-assing it when I'm feeling tired or low on energy produces much better results than not going.

Imagination that is buff from regular workouts and which I have conditioned to respond to particular cues is a lot like walking around with a smaller waist and wider shoulders than I would have if I didn't go to the gym on a regular schedule. I won't be modeling for any fireman calendars any time soon, just as I'm unlikely to be the show runner for some high-profile TV show, but I feel better knowing that I've got more at my disposal than life in techno-industrial culture regularly demands of me. Some applications for fitness or imagination present themselves in unusual circumstances, and it's good to have a little something extra under the hood.

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February 2019


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