“The world is the great gymnasium where we come to make ourselves strong.” Swami Vivekananda
What an inspired metaphor! It’s so clear, yet so relaxed: We’re all here to work out, learn, play, and grow stronger. This description seems especially apt for us as writers, so let’s explore the many ways in we can grow stronger in our craft:
We grow stronger by practicing: When Alex was a pint-sized baseball player, a gifted coach we knew always said, “How you practice is how you play.” What wisdom there is in those words! When we practice with care and focus, we ready ourselves for those rare moments when inspiration comes. And when we practice our craft consistently, we gain command of the fundamentals, which frees us to push the boundaries of our work and get to the next level.
We grow stronger by learning from seasoned players: When we expose ourselves to experienced writers, we give ourselves enormous gifts: The gift of example and the gift of inspiration. There are so many ways to not reinvent the wheel, to learn from those farther down the path than we are: We can attend readings, workshops, forge friendships, find mentors, or simply read and analyze the works of writers we admire. Seasoned players have a lot to teach us!
We grow stronger by playing above our game: When we stretch ourselves and get beyond our comfort zone, we build our writing muscles. When we challenge ourselves to come up with creative ways to deal with a thorny plot point or a difficult character, or simply reach for a more precise word, we grow stronger and better. When we push past our self-imposed limitations, or dig deep and find our second wind, we grow stronger.
We grow stronger through feedback: When we hit a rough patch or find our persistence flagging, we can get ourselves back on track by asking for help — and giving it. Constructive feedback can illuminate possibilities we haven’t seen and help us find our footing again. Trusted writing partners and committed writing groups can help us grow stronger. And critiquing the work of others can help improve our own.
We grow stronger by playing the game: Practicing helps us learn the fundamentals of our craft, but getting out in the field and playing, winning and losing, is where we build our resilience and
pluck. For us, playing the game means sharing our work through writing groups, open mikes, and submissions. When we learn we can bounce back from rejection and use disappointment to fuel our drive to improve, we’re on the path to becoming champions.
OK, inspired and energized, let’s get into our sweats and play the game. Write on!