Friday, November 20, 2009

Paying your dues

I almost forgot I had a blog post due today (thanks, Carla, for the reminder!). When I checked my iPhone and saw the message, I was at a Ricky Skaggs concert. Now, that may seem odd, but I have to say that I love live music and I'll try anything once (most anything). So, when my parents wanted my hubby and I to go along to this concert that featured bluegrass music, we said sure.

And it was fabulous. Ricky Skaggs has won 14 Grammy Awards. There's a reason for it. Even if you don't care for bluegrass, it's an incredibly complex music to play. And it takes practice. Tons and tons of practice.

Yet this man, and his band Kentucky Thunder, made it look so easy. Their fingers flew on those instruments, making things happen that was just incredible to hear and brought the audience to cheers more than once. Incredible stuff.

We left the theater amazed at how fast their fingers moved, and how smooth the music was. And since I knew I had a blog post to write, I started thinking about practice, hard work, and dedication. (And, in the case of those fingers, muscle memory.)

That's what it takes to play damn good bluegrass, and that's what it takes to write a damn good book. Those men made it look easy, and I think that's what a good writer does too. But it's not easy. The work, the sweat, the blood, the tears -- it's all in there. You don't see it on the stage, but it's there.

So when you're feeling the despair of rewriting a scene or chapter or book for the fifth time, remember that you're working on that muscle memory, that the more you write and revise, the better you'll get. Writing is a muscle and it must be exercised. No words are wasted, even when you're crying and wailing and thinking you suck worse than any writer has ever sucked before (believe me, I feel that at least once in every book!).

Because one day it's going to be you on that stage and you'll be thankful you practiced so hard and long, that your muscles are ready for the experience. You gotta pay your dues to make it look easy. Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder were a beautiful example of that.

So keep writing. Don't give up. Me, I've got revisions to finish. It's the practice I need to make it seem effortless when the reader is reading.

Are you working that muscle memory today?


Christine said...

Lynn, this is an excellent post. I was commenting to a friend (writer) that I seem to be barreling through revisions much faster this time around. It's like I intuitively know what has to be fixed. Also, the synopsis is coming together much faster (still have to go through the process--but I know what to focus on thanks to Kira's handy dandy guide). And even when I hit a wall in my GH work, I sat down, refocused for three days and boom, solution. It was a lot faster to go through the difficult retooling of the story.

As of now, my brain is getting a HUGE workout LOL with getting the GH 2nd Entry ready to roll out the door. Deadlines work.

Jeanie said...

Excellent post, Lynn. Writing is hard work and, hopefully, something I will get better at with lots of practice. There have been a few times that the words just flowed from my fingers and the muse and I were in accord, but most of the time writing is a struggle. And, yes, I often sing the 'I suck' song, too! But, writing is something I am passionate about and I do so want to get better. Practice makes perfect, as my Mama used to say.

Gwen Hernandez said...

Great post, Lynn! I definitely find that the more I write, the better I get. Even though I still have daily bouts of "I suck"-syndrome. ;-)

I'm working toward the 10,000 hours needed to be an expert. Just give me a few years...

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Glad y'all like it! :)

Christine, yep, that's so true. You do get better at it the more you do it. That's the whole point! So, while it's hard and you'd rather be doing something else, it'll pay off in the end. Good luck with GH #2!

Jeanie, you WILL get better with practice. :) Just like playing a piano or training for a marathon. But you will always suffer from the "I suck" demon from time to time. We all do. Just push past him! :)

LOL, Gwen, I see that the "I suck" demon is out in full force! Daily bouts of it, yes. I'm racing toward the finish line of revisions that are due on Monday -- and I just can't stop thinking how much my choices suck. :) I hope I feel better when I reach the end and reread it!

It never goes away, y'all, no matter how many books you publish. But you do get better and faster, I think, with practice. :)

Cari Hislop said...

I needed that! Thanks! :)

M.V.Freeman said...

Your post came at a most appropriate time Lynn! I am slogging through dreaded revisions (yes, I move slower than pondwater) but each and every time I is one bit better.

Practice. That's what makes it perfect! :-)

Speaking of..back to work.

Paula said...

Ricky Scaggs rocks. Period. End of story.

Great post, Lynn. And it's true--the best way to become a good writer is to write. You internalize the steps it takes to build a compelling conflict, to create characters who leap off the page. You stop making the same mistakes all the time (and, okay, learn to make new ones, but that's okay. It's a process).

Writing is never easy, but it does get easier the more you do it.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

You're welcome, Cari!

Mary, go go go! You can do it!

Paula, absolutely! On all of it. ;)

Louisa Cornell said...

Great post, my Pixie Sister, and one I definitely appreciate as I race to finish my GH entry. I can relate completely to the muscle memory tie in. As a musician I practiced every day and eventually some of the things that I struggled with at the beginning eventually became second nature. Singing the body is the instrument so it is VERY important to commit as much of the actual muscle work to memory as possible. The same applies to writing. Things that were hard when I started are now second nature and I know every day that I write I get a little better.