“Write as often as possible, not with the idea at once of getting into print, but as if you were learning an instrument.” -J.B. Priestley
Naturally, it’s nearly every author’s dream to be published. While I’m sure there are a few authors out there who really mean it when they say that they write just to write, the majority of us dream of that day when we see our name in print, in the book stores, and consider ourselves a “real writer” because we’ve got the published evidence to prove it. There are a multitude of quotes from writers far more known and prolific than I, extolling the virtues of writing for the sake of the words, not the success, and this one is among my favorites.
Because our writing is an instrument. Our words are swords. We cannot expect to play beautiful music or succeed in a spar if we do not have the training and the practice to keep our instruments tuned and our weapons sharp. There is always sheer dumb luck, but I wouldn’t bet a whole lot on that. I know I, for one, write every single day, and the bulk of my writing is on stuff that may never be published. They’re stabs at short stories, they’re threads of consciousness, they’re sparks of inspiration that need to be written but might not have anywhere to go. Sometimes, there’s a great deal of guilt in this. “Why are you writing this? You can’t do anything with it; it’s a waste of time. You should work on more of the things you actually want to publish.” But the fact of the matter is that even though these pieces may never see the light of day, they are still incredibly beneficial to the art of my craft.
An artist may never show off his preliminary sketches. A violinist will play to no one but her sheet music so that she may improve. A dancer keeps practicing those perfect pirouettes in the mirror in an empty studio sometimes, too. So a writer fills up endless notebooks, scribbles down on every piece of free paper he can find, just for the sake of the words, for the sake of getting it right when it actually comes time to perform.
I’ve been thinking of picking up 750 Words again, for this exact reason. I think coming across this quote was a good sign that it might be helpful. What do you think?