“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.”
“Everyone goes into the season and they want to make all these crazy changes and they want to improve so drastically. But to get 2 or 3 percent better at something is really, really great…so just keep chipping away.”
Jay Bruce, Mets outfielder
In August 2016, Jay Bruce, a new Mets outfielder, was battling a slump. He’d just come off a great season and couldn’t understand why. Though he roared back in September, those August days when he got up to bat and couldn’t really connect with the ball haunted him. So he asked a coach to look at his advanced metrics — technical data on his swing — and tell him what was wrong. Based on the data, the coach told him that his hitting was off — he was chasing pitches that he usually let go and also hitting fewer fly balls.
Keeping his eye on analytics is helping Jay keep his eye on the ball. He’s learning more about his style of hitting and how to maximize it. “You have to recognize what your strong swing is” he says.
The same is true for us with our writing: Like Jay, we can make small tweaks to our writing process or style that can have big payoffs in consistency and impact. Instead of trying to hit the ball out of the park every day and making ourselves frustrated, let’s figure out what works best for us and then, like Jay, do a little more of it on a regular basis:
If you’re working to increase the amount of time you spend on your writing, why not add 15 minutes a day to your writing session? If you do that over four days, you’re giving yourself a solid hour more of work time — and applying the “15 Minute Rule,” you might find yourself writing longer and going deeper (see post, 15 Minutes).
If you want to improve your dialogue, how about finding examples of pithy, pointed exchanges in three or four novels you really like and seeing what makes them work? Devote a consistent amount of time a few days a week to studying and emulating them. Once you’ve got the knack, you can transfer your sharpened skill to your own characters.
Are you a lark or a night owl? Do you seem to write with greater ease during the day or is “burning the midnight oil” more your style? If you’re a lark, why not start your day a little earlier and devote some of that precious time to your writing? If a night owl, how about
setting aside a specific time after dinner to tackle your work?
Big things come in small packages: big changes come in little steps. Write on!