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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?

Target practice by WAVES at Treasure Island, California, Feb. 1943. Note that while four  are practice aiming, one has a different target!

With the amazing new opportunities for writers to reach their audiences faster than ever, more and more  sage advice is being shelled out about how to write well. I recently came across A. M. Schultz's thoughts on the subject, and appreciated his candor.

There really is no other way to become a good writer. Whatever method works best for you, you have to put in the hours.

Luckily for me, I put in most of my training while still a youngling, so I've banked much more than 10,000 hours. I wrote picture books in the third grade and started keeping a diary, probably long before that. In my senior year of high school, my English teacher asked me if I wrote every day. I replied, "Of course!" I was a writer already, and that's that writers do: they write.

"It shows," he told me, beaming.

That wasn't the first compliment I'd received on my writing. All those hours of scribbling began to pay off (in the praise department, which is the most important coin for a beginning writer) fairly quickly. There will always be more to learn, but the world is thankful I got a lot of sketchy writing out of the way when I did.

It's never too late to start, but the bad news is that no one starts out writing Shakespeare-caliber poetry. Good writing must be cultivated, and to do that, you have to write badly for a while. So if your writing leaves something to be desired, the best advice is not to follow some formula or to write at a specific time of day. It's just to keep writing.

And then after you write, rewrite. That's what I'm up to these days.