One of the great things about the National Novel Writing Month event is the communities you find on various social networks. One group on Live journal that I’ve been involved with since my second NaNo is NanoLJers. One exciting event they do in the off-season is Writo-de-Mayo, a play on Cinco de Mayo. The idea is to have some sort of tangible writing goal for the month of May. So you could write another 50K novel, but you could also resolve to get 10 job applications written and sent out by the end of the month, 10 drabbles (1 drabble = 1 100 word story), 10 literary magazine submissions, or you could have a goal to finish or edit the novel that’s sitting in your sock drawer.
Why am I mentioning this? It’s important that writers write. It seems obvious, but I think sometimes writers make the mistake that we write something and then we throw in the towel saying, “alright, I’ve had my fill of writing for a while. I’m done.” We should always be writing, editing or doing something writing related. Writers don’t get better by osmosis or by doing NaNo once a year. Writing is a lifelong process of reading, writing, making mistakes, learning from mistakes and making new mistakes.
Look at it this way: musicians don’t get better on their instruments simply by playing their instruments. You have to learn the technical aspects, you have to make mistakes (like writers, they have mistakes that they love to make). You have to practice your instrument constantly, and if you want to be the best, you have to constantly put yourself in situations where you’re being asked to stretch your skills and play pieces that are probably above your technical level. You don’t get better by playing the same kind of music all the time.
If you practice on occasion, show up to rehearsals and the concert, you may be an average musician, but if you don’t take the time to practice, practice, practice, then you’re only settling for mediocrity. I know this because I am guilty of settling for mediocrity when it came to playing my instrument. I always admired my classmates who had better technique than I did, were more advanced than myself, and had faster fingers, better mastery of their bowing hand and better vibrato than I did. I could have been better if I had been more dedicated to practising my instrument at home, but instead, I allowed myself to settle for mediocrity.
Writers should not settle for mediocrity either. Writers should always be finding new ways of stretching themselves, refining their style and making mistakes. That’s how we get better as writers. Making mistakes, making new mistakes, and repeating old mistakes to the point of embarrassment.