Mark Terry

Monday, June 23, 2008

Writing Muscles

June 23, 2008
I was thinking about my oldest son, Ian, (currently at karate camp). At 14, going on 15, he's not sure what he wants to do for a living. Music, maybe, writing, history.

I'm sure he'd be happy doing any of them, but I suspect he'll want to be a writer. Or maybe not. But he writes every day.

When we dropped him off at camp yesterday, although he'd taken his iPod with him in the car, he left it with us. He brought a book--it's mandatory anyway--and what caught me off guard a bit was he had brought a notebook and pen to write with.

Friday afternoon, while I was working away in my office, Ian was in his bedroom next door, sitting at his desk working on a story. We were sort of alternating YouTube tunes, leaning heavily on Jack Johnson.

I was thinking this morning that if he did decide to become a writer, he's already developed the writing habit and the writing muscles. Because writing is about developing your muscles, which are, I think, between your ears in this case. But writing is definitely, like muscles, something you develop through practice and practice and regular use. At 14, he's writing about as much as I was in my early 20s. 

There are other things involved in actually making a living as a writer. I know that all too well. Things like discipline to finish things whether you like them or not. Discipline to work on things for money whether you like them or not. Discipline to take editing and criticism and rejection (let's call that being thick-skinned). Having a sense of the market is important. In fiction we tend to refer that as a "hook" and I'm not sure I have it, but in nonfiction it's important, too, and at least in some areas I definitely have it. I know how to look for story ideas and how to analyze a publication and come up with ideas for them specifically.

All excellent writing survival skills.

But at least for now, he's working on his writing muscles.

Mark Terry


Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Very true. I know I start to feel "flabby" if I break from writing for too long. People who have never finished a novel just have no idea the amount of discipline it takes.

7:12 AM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

Hi Mark:
I wrote in a journal every day of my life for abut fifteen years . . . I would miss it if I didn't, and I am sure some of that discipline (started at about 13 or 14) went a long way toward developing my writing muscles.

7:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Writing music or history for a living. Gotta love a kid like that, but what can you say? Hope Fate smiles.

I suppose I have learned a lot about writing, although it doesn't always seem that way because the more you know the more you can fret about and tinker with. I do notice, on a small scale, when I write small essays, I can do one in an hour that I would've labored over, off and on, for days. And sometimes I feel like I'm being careless, but then I realize that, no, this essay is actually better than I would've written back then. I just know what I'm doing, avoid mistakes, get it right the first time.

The most important ting is just practice, putting in the time, so your son is on the right track.

8:13 AM  
Blogger kitty said...

Our kids are grown with kids of their own. It's interesting to look back when they were young and see why they are what they are now. Our son was always fascinated with wires and how things work. He's now an electrician and works in a salt mine (repairing & maintaining the equipment) situated underneath one of the Finger Lakes in NY.


10:43 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

I'm like Jude. If I don't write for a day, I get totally flabby. In fact, if I write less than 1,000 words a day, I'm out of shape. I've had an out of shape year, though, at least as far as fiction is concerned.

Your son sounds like he's going to have an interesting life! :-)

I wish I had discovered writing back then. I did a few Power of the Pen contests, and I had a journal I was not so great at writing in. If it weren't for the computer, I doubt I'd be a writer. I'm too obsessed with neat handwriting; I'd never get past page 1!

PS: I JUST discovered Jack Johnson. Wow, is he cool!

12:49 PM  
Blogger MissWrite said...

my heart happy to know that someone so young is already so dedicated to 'craft'. He has a good example to lead him, and that's even better.

Now if he goes into a body like your side pic... oh boy, a feast for the mind and the eye!

12:54 PM  
Blogger MissWrite said...

Hey, it cut off the first part of my comment... I'm an idiot, but that makes me look like a moron. haha.

"It makes my heart..."

So there blogger!

12:56 PM  
Blogger r2 said...

Please quit posting my photo without my permission.

5:01 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

--actually it's mine without, you know, the body hair and fat. I mean, look at this guy. The blood vessels in his lower abs are popped. He's got like 0% body fat. I'd look like that, after, say, three or four months of a wasting disease.

5:10 PM  
Blogger Aimless Writer said...

OooOoo baby! Great pic!

I agree. When not writing things get stagnant. The more I write the more it flows.

4:01 AM  
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