When I first decided to be a writer, I was in another world. I thought whatever you typed was… well, words set in gold and probably sent directly from heaven. I don’t know why I thought writing would be any different from any other form of art. I am not sure if it was the films or the romance of writing that created this cloud of illusion for me. After all, I knew about the practice of an art, and writing is no different. It is an art and with any art there has to be practice.
For a writer, a novelist, there can be no less than a million words typed and retyped, read and tossed about, before the practice can become the art. Some say ten thousand hours is the magic number. I don’t know why I thought writing didn’t need practice, after all, I was used to practice. It was not uncommon during my conservatory years to put in four hours a day on the piano. I did the scales up and down, backwards and to front, endless finger exercises, and then when it came to learning music, each phrase at a time, until the entire piece was learnt. At the end, the last piece I was studying was a concerto for only the left hand. I never just bashed it out. Such is the dedication of practice, and with writing, it just has to be accepted, is no different from learning a new language.
I clearly remember learning all the tenses of verbs in French and not understanding, or frankly caring why I was being subjected to such torture. Now as an adult, I wished I had paid more attention to my French lessons that bored me to death, as those tenses would have been set in my brain, just like the notes of music had been imprinted on my memory, so too it is with the choice of words and the creation of new worlds. It is a sublime form of communication and learning a language is what we writers do when we practice and face rejection. Be it music, or a foreign tongue, we are learning to think in a new way, and that new way must be communicated to the audience, our readers.
So often you hear of writers with manuscripts sitting in the bottom drawer never to see the light of day. Why not do something with them is often the query. However, even if they never see publication, they have served a massive purpose. Every novelist needs to practice and these unpublished novels are just that–the work needed so that writing becomes an art. So the next time a rejection comes flying in the door, it’s only a reminder that all art takes dedication and time, and it’s now time to roll up the shirt sleeves and keep at it.
Even then we have to remember to laugh and carry on,
” All good writing is like swimming underwater and holding your breath.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald.