"Art stands on the shoulders of craft, which means that to get to the art you must master the craft. If you want to write, practice writing. Practice it for hours ... . Write the story, learn from it, put it away, write another story."
--Ann Patchett, "The Getaway Car," This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
This quote reminds me of an article on Quantity vs. Quality
that I stumbled across recently (and I'm sorry I can't remember where I
first saw this link). The takeaway from it was that putting in the
time, repeating exercises again and again, will improve your craft just
through sheer volume. (The Write Practice, where this article appeared,
also allowed for the opposite approach, focusing on quality.)
all of it resonates because I've been cleaning out the boxes and files
in my writing office, a slow task that will take a long time, and I have
found some truly hideous poems and stories from years ago. But two
things struck me about these early efforts:
--That there are so many of them. I wrote a lot. And when I liked a story, I produced multiple versions of it.
--That I've gotten better.
are people who can write something brilliant the first time they try.
But most of us don't. Most of us reach the art through the craft, as Ann
Patchett said. People recognize that playing the piano, skating a
triple Axel, or hitting a three-point shot in basketball takes practice
and repetition. Writing's the same way, in my experience.
notebooks full of my stumbling, my practicing. I'm finding that only a
small percentage of it is worth keeping. But the sheer quantity of it
reminds me how much I have put into writing, and how silly I'm being
when I expect things to be easy (say, when I expect to produce a perfect
first draft instantly!)