“How do you write like that?”
I get this question a lot. It’s flattering, but more than anything it makes me feel awkward and a little disappointed—disappointed in myself, of course, for offering such rambling, useless answers.
Over the years, I’ve honed my answer down to one word. It’s the most honest, straightforward answer I can offer: “time.”
Though I’ve come to accept it, I still don’t like this answer. It demands so much from us writers. It robs me of the chance to say that I’m some unique, special creature, or that I discovered some secret of the craft through arcane means.
The truth is, I don’t know anything more about writing than you do. At least, I don’t know the things I know the way a quantum physicist knows Planck’s constant. I look at words, then I feel things about them, then I look at their context, then I make guesses, then my readers decide if I’m right.
The source of my powers is certainly not my word choice, or my imagery, or my command of grammar, or my ideas, or any other component part of my craft. I used to think those things were the answer, or at least close to the answer, but they’re not. I know they’re not because I see other, less experienced writers do things which, technically speaking, are the same things I do—except they don’t work.
This is as frustrating for me as it is for them.
At this point, I could offer any number of mystical explanations for this phenomenon. The problem with the muses and all their millions of equivalents, however, is that they answer “why” and then try to reverse engineer “how” from there.
Every writer gets to invent their own answer to “why” so you don’t need my help or anyone else’s to figure that out. For the writer who has already answered “why” for themselves, “how” is far more relevant.
And “how” has to be “time,” because all the other possible answers have too many exceptions.
Today, I consider myself an “above average” writer, in the strictest sense of the phrase. I’m somewhere within the 51th percentile. I’m working on becoming a master writer, but that’s going to take another five years at least.
That’s why, about a year ago now, I decided to write every day. I figured I could cover the spacetime more easily if I treated it like a marathon rather than a series of sprints.
My goal with my daily writing is not to become a legitimate writer, because I already am a legitimate writer and so are you. My goal isn’t to impress everyone, either, because it’s mostly unseen work.
My goal is to get where I’m trying to go sooner and with my spirit still intact.
Do you need to write every day? I don’t know.
I don’t know where you’re going or when you plan on getting there. All I know is that you’ll probably need to cover a lot of spacetime. How you do it (the “how of how,” if you will) is up to you.