The Most Important Thing Writing Has Taught Me
The other night, at a little holiday shindig, I got into a discussion about writing with a Kindly Stranger. When K.S. learned that I write, K.S. engaged me in a spirited exchange about our favorite authors, favorite books and why writing can be as therapeutic as island sand between your toes and an umbrellaed drink in your hand.
Our conversation weaved through a few more literary topics when K.S. reached for a cucumber wheel, dunked it in their very own “homemade” ranch dip and asked me, “So what has writing taught you?”
I sipped my drink and attempted to conjuncture up something profound. Something Fauklner-esque. Something that would knock K.S’s Santa socks off.
But all I could come up with in that moment was, “Umm…Umm… this “homemade” dip is pretty good.”
Then the tide of the party rolled to the appetizer table and K.S. was lassoed into another conversation about of all things–cowboy hats.
Such is the nature of parties.
I lingered around the appetizers. Working my way around the veggie tray, questioning the “homemade” authenticity of the ranch dip and turning over the question.
So two days later, K.S. I have your answer.
What has writing taught me?
Writing has taught me the importance of daily practice.
Look, in our fragile human hearts, I think we know that to fundamentally improve, at anything, we need to put in the work. The daily practice.
We live in the age of the the hack, the cheat, the easy way. We want to believe, that we are the chosen one who will find the mythical short cut that everyone else–in the history of the world–has failed to find.
The daily practice rule for writing holds true for becoming a better person. Not saying that writers are great people, in fact a lot of great writers are pretty shitty people but self improvement, like writing requires daily practice.
And the daily practice of being a good husband, wife, father, mother, friend, student and colleague. Of compassion and listening. Of empathy and tolerance and mindfulness and commitment to a goal takes knuckle-splitting work.
Self-improvement, like writing, is a hard daily commitment. It’s a process you must learn to trust consisting of a million little baby steps often without producing any noticeable milestones.
It helps to remember that even the experts, the Goliaths in any field– Dickens in writing, Gates in computers, the Dalai Lama in life were at one point novices in their respective fields. These experts only became experts through perseverance, through the art of daily practice.
My daily writing habit has made me a better more confident writer. It has instilled a certain courage ( or lunacy) needed to toss my words and guts and ideas on your screen. A courage ( or lunacy) to chase dreams. A courage ( or lunacy) I severely lacked before I started writing everyday.
So K.S., great question!
It was nice to meet you and I hope the cowboy hat conversation was just as scintillating as ours.
And your “homemade” ranch dip, was delightful!
( Psst… I know it was Hidden Valley straight from the bottle… but no worries, your secret is safe with me.)