Anyone who’s been around powerboats knows that if you really want to get anywhere, you have to get your boat “up on a plane” and that to do so takes an initial expenditure of extra power and acceleration. When a boat begins forward motion through water, the hull is essentially plowing the water aside, making for rather slow and sluggish headway. But when you gun the engine and power the boat through the water, you begin gaining momentum. First the bow and then the rest of the hull kind of lift up and on top the water, so that the boat hull is now planing across the water’s surface, quickly gaining speed with diminishing effort. Then you can back off on the throttle and just enjoy the exhilaration of cruising.
Starting and maintaining a writing practice is not a dissimilar process. Initially, it may take quite a bit of effort to carve out the time and set aside your fears and procrastinations, to actually sit down and begin writing on a regular basis. At first, it may feel like you’re slogging against water but the more momentum you gain, the more habitual you become with your writing, the easier the process unfolds. And once you have a writing practice established, the easier it becomes to maintain.
However, for most of us, if you let your writing practice slip—just like a powerboat that slows down below a certain speed settles back deeper into water—you’ll have to start over again and expend that initial extra effort to get yourself back up on a plane. I don’t mean to sound discouraging, but the truth of the matter is that writing is hard work, even for many prolific and established authors. There are very few writers for whom words just come streaming out onto the page like water from an open faucet. Most writers have to learn how to live with the fits and starts that come with slipping in and out of their writing groove.
A successful writer—from the context of considering writing as a practice and process—is someone who has found the ways and means of entering into and maintaining the flow of their writing. A major determining factor between successful and would-be writers comes down to the tenacity and perseverance that one brings to the practice of writing. And a measure of our determination is the ability to come back to the writing table, time and time again, even when it means that we have to go through the sometimes tedious process of getting ourselves back up on the plane.
Rather than seeing this as a discouraging reality, I find that it helps to understand that these are simply some of the mechanics for establishing a writing practice. Just as naval architects study the parameters for designing planing hulls, we writers can devise our individual methods for getting—and keeping—our writing up on a plane. And whenever we find that we have settled back into the waters of inertia, we know that we simply have to apply that extra burst of energy and determination to get up and cruising again.
I’ll be discussing some ways and means for enhancing writing practice in future posts.