There's no special trick about writing

Marieloes says, “The head...the glance, the mouth and the expression together afford a revealing view into our inner selves.

I use this blog to practice writing about things I notice and think about.

Today I'm inspired by a father's letter to his teenage son. Sherwood Anderson’s letter (taken from Posterity Letters of Great Americans to Their Children) to his seventeen-year-old son is an example of a parent supporting a child's “quest to find one’s purpose and live the creative life boldly” using writing as a way to make sense of the world and our place in it.

Anderson's encouragement to his teenage son:

“Learn to draw. Try to make your hand so unconsciously adept that it will put down what you feel without your having to think about it.

Then you can think of the thing before you.

It’s what you feel about it, what it means to you.

Draw, draw hundreds of things.

There is no special trick about writing or painting either. I wrote constantly for 15 years before I produced anything with any solidity to it.

You won't arrive. It's an endless search.”

What does effort mean when it comes to writing?

I talk to a friend who is a textile artist and someone who sews for hours every day.
She says, “Do you know about the ten thousand-hour rule? She quotes Malcolm Gladwell from his book Outliers. “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good. Ten thousand hours of practice makes perfect.” Do you know how many hours that is? 

Anne Lamott, author of the book Bird by Bird tells a childhood story about her father’s encouragement when she struggled to write a book report about birds. “Just take it bird by bird,” he says. Bird by bird! 

My husband writes. I asked him what he would say to others about practice, Sit down and write every day for an hour, even if you don't feel like it. 

I know what to do. 

Ten thousand hours. Bird by bird. Draw hundreds of drawings. Write, write, write. Write whatever arises. Write whether you feel like it or not. You won't arrive. It's an endless search. Practice. It’s a path, a journey, not a destination. 

This puts me on familiar ground. My meditation practice works exactly like this.

Sherwood Anderson was an American novelist and short story writer. His most enduring work is the short story sequence Winesburg, Ohio. Writers he influenced include Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Thomas Wolfe.

Dorie McCullough Lawson wrote Prosperity Letters of Great Americans to Their Children. NPR interviewed her in 2004. Listen or download the interview here. 

(First published 1/13/13)