Is ‘writing’ really like a muscle that needs to be exercised? Because if it is, and I want to be a writer, then I’d better write. But I don’t really want to be a writer. I want to put into writing what I have to say. I want to say some things because I think it’s important that someone say them, and no one else will say what I have to say, exactly as I will say it. Of course, anyone can say that.
So… do I have anything to say at this particular moment that’s important enough to put into print, to write down in well-formed sentences, to beg a reader’s attention, to plot a trail through my inner morass of jumbled insights, hoping to emerge into a clear space with something worth capturing your attention? Most ‘writers’ jump quickly past this question and begin writing, and it’s a good thing they do or far fewer interesting things would likely ever get written, and you can’t really tell in advance, anyway, how worthwhile what you put down in letters will turn out to be.
Take this little rambling trickle for example. I haven’t really said anything yet but I’ve captured your attention, haven’t I? Granted, it has not yet been for very long. Still. How have I done this? Lots of ways. First of all, you started reading this because you wanted to, so you’re probably either a writer or you have an interest in writing. Secondly, I’m writing this for writers, specifically for the purpose of encouraging writers to express themselves and to improve their written works. Thirdly, you’re wondering if writing is really like a muscle that needs to be exercised, or at least I am.
I definitely develop a rhythm when I write frequently, but is this rhythm more deeply embedded in the collected work I’m developing or is it accumulating in my increased writing strength? A little of both I’m fairly sure you’d imagine… some sentences do seem to have a rhythm of their own, other rhythms only develop over a several-page span of text, other rhythms require chapters to develop.
So, am I exercising my writing muscle now? Do I have one writing muscle or do I have many writing muscles? Is this just a literary inquiry? There’s really no such thing as writing muscles, is there? We’re just talking in metaphors, alluding to the possible truth that writing, or any art or craft requiring practice and application, also carries some momentum, since when you get in the habit of doing it then you’re in the habit of doing it. Still, is this a good thing? There’s a lot of crap out there. Have you looked at what’s being published lately? Writing for the sake of writing can’t necessarily be a good thing. I’ve read too much junk.
But, of course, that’s only other people and I’m me. I’m special. I’m a special case and anything I write will be worth reading because… well, because it won’t be junk. How do I know this? I definitely do not know this. How are we to define such a thing? Certainly it’s reasonable to call the writings of others trash, and just as certainly it’s entirely unreasonable to consider my own work in that category. Notice how I slipped in that phrase ‘my own work’ instead of ‘my own writing’? Made it sound a little more important for a second there, didn’t it. Made you wonder for a fraction of a second, what work? What’s he talking about? Is what he’s writing part of some larger work?
And of course, the answer is “I don’t know”, but I’m writing to exercise my writing muscles which I’m not entirely convinced I have, so that when I eventually do find something to say, I’ll be writing-worthy, I’ll be compositionally fit, my p’s and q’s will be well-toned, I’ll carry the confidence of skill and practice. That last one doesn’t sound too bad, actually, but how long can someone talk about nothing and convince any reader to follow along to find out where he’s going when he’s already admitted he has no idea where he’s going?
Oh, wait… he’s going to look for the answer to the question of whether or not writing is like exercising a muscle and if you don’t do it, your ability dwindles. But what else are you doing when you’re not writing? Isn’t that a relevant question? What if I’m learning another language? Doesn’t help much, does it. Well, that depends on what you’re trying to achieve. What if I’m building a website to sell what I’ve already written? What if I’m just thinking about it? What if I’m just collecting myself and refocusing my energies?
Lots of people write lots of things yet how many of them do it to exercise their writing muscles? Now there’s a question I’ve never seen statistics about. And how many of those who do write to exercise their writing muscles, would actually admit this is their motivation?
Have I gotten a good writing workout yet? As I get more literately-fit will I write more, will I write longer pieces, will I write better pieces, will the quality of my writing improve? Is this writing exercise good for me? Is it good for the reader? I still haven’t said anything of substance yet, have I?… Isn’t writing fun! I’m still not convinced I want to be a writer. I just want to write down some things I have to say.
At this point, dear reader, do you feel exercised? Getting there, aren’t we? If so, then maybe I’ve succeeded in exercising my writing muscles. Now we have to wait and see if this means that the next thing I write will be stronger writing… because if not, this probably means I need more writing exercise. And won’t you be lucky to be a part of my next workout…