In recent months I’ve been having treatment for an injury to my “lower back”. (Really low—like, the part you sit on...) Anyway, through this often frustrating process of recovery I’ve discovered how easily muscular function can be taken for granted.
In many ways the skills we use for writing are like muscles working together. Grammar. Character development. Plot. Dialogue. (Etc.) It can be really easy to focus on one area, and in so doing, enable others to atrophy, whether through under–use, misapplication or inexperience.
Something I’ve discovered is it’s one thing to say a muscle needs strengthening; it’s an entirely different matter to achieve that goal. Anyone who’s had physiotherapy knows that process can be really uncomfortable, even painful. Writing pain can take many forms. It might look like embarrassment or frustration. Perhaps accentuated by a rejection letter. It might be someone saying they don’t like our work, or criticism highlighting flaws in our writing.
But even when we’ve identified a weakness, there comes the active pain of exercise. Worse, we can pay exorbitant amounts of money, say through a writing course or critique, but if we don’t take on board the instruction and do the exercises, nothing changes.
I don’t know about you, but I can get a bit attached to parts of my work or writing style. ‘It doesn’t work that way.’ Well, that’s just an opinion. I like it! So someone else reads the work and says a similar thing. It’s a bit like my physio pointing out differing joint function and shifts in weight as I do requested movements. I might think there’s nothing wrong with what I’m doing, but patiently he highlights where things aren’t quite matching up.
So, time to get motivated! Join the writer’s gym!
But guess what? Not only can that be painful and expensive, it’s often plain straight out hard work! And those exercises can also feel really awkward at first.
Just the other night I was doing one legged squats against a wall and thinking how easy it was to drop back to familiar habits to compensate for the muscle weakness that has developed. I know I’m getting stronger, but it’s slow. I have to form good habits and progress at an achievable pace until my body shapes up.
As a writer, have you ever looked back on old work and shuddered? It’s a bit like watching myself do those squats. I look clumsy and uncoordinated. But I’m also learning. I can see myself developing—can see strength and balance coming back into my movements and, er, “lower back”...
I think that sometimes it’s a good thing to pick up an old manuscript or short work from the past and have a read. It may not seem like you’ve changed your style much, but oooohhhh, yes, you have!!!! Little by little, over time, with sometimes painful, expensive and awkward processes, you have grown stronger in your craft.
Adele Jones lives in Queensland, Australia. Her writing is inspired by a passion for family, faith, friends, music and science – and a broad ranging imagination. To find out more visit www.adelejonesauthor.com