When cooking there is often an ingredient that MUST be included or the recipe falls apart. For example, one of my daughters insists that absolutely everything must include salt while the other leans more toward garlic. I used to have a glazed meatloaf recipe that I really loved until my dog ate the recipe, but that’s another story. The glazed meatloaf was nothing without ground mustard and brown sugar, and I have never found a meatloaf recipe that I liked as well.
In writing, as in cooking, there is one ingredient that must be part of every writer’s path to success.
What is that secret ingredient?
Writers vs. Writer Wannabes
Let’s face it, you’re not making a lot of progress if all you’re doing with your time is reading books about writing, web surfing, reading other people’s blogs, or studying new skills.
Which is not to say you aren’t learning something from these activities.
The problem is no one is going to pay you to recite the things you have learned in books.
They are only going to pay you to write.
Writing is a practical skill, kind of like skiing or cooking. There is no multiple choice test at the end of the day where you might end up with an A+ and move on to the next subject.
You will only get better by doing.
You will only become a writer – or a better writer – by writing.
It’s a long, slow process. Most, if not all writers, produce a whole lot of garbage before they actually write something of value.
And there’s no chance of getting to the good stuff if you don’t work your way through the not-so-good stuff. You have to take action, struggling to draw out the words that refuse to come even if it hurts.
In other words, you have to write whether you feel like it or not.
Writing, Weight Loss and Other Goals
So while we’re on the topic of cooking and food, pursuing a career in writing isn’t much different than pursing other goals such as weight loss.
If you realize you’ve put on a few pounds, you can’t wake up one day, shrink the portion of a meal or two and drop twenty or thirty pounds just like that.
It takes effort, consistent effort.
It takes keeping your eye on the ball without wavering.
It takes doing the right things today – and then getting up and doing the right things again tomorrow.
I got an email today from Lynn Terry of Clicknewz.
She is one of the few people that I pretty much always want to read everything she writes – her emails, her blog posts, her comments on social media.
Anyway, this particular email suggested something that I thought was very profound. She said to spend less time consuming content and more time creating content. She suggested that for every three blog posts you read, you should write at least one.
What a simple way to put a lid on analysis paralysis, or the urge to read and study rather than writing.
I think it’s great advice. At times you may not even realize that you are frittering time away. But remembering to stop and write something every time you read two or three things is a very simple way to remember not to leave out the missing ingredient of action.
We have to participate in the act of writing. Or we aren’t really writers at all.