Tuesday, February 9, 2016

How Writers Improve

Writers are forever learning, which means we’ll forever be hitting plateaus.

Eventually, we get past them. We get better—not as quickly as we like, but we do improve. Here’s how:

Ganas: A term popularized among English speakers by math teacher Jaime Escalante, ganas is a desire so strong that giving up is out of the question. You get better because you want it, badly. You’re desperate—so desperate that, paradoxically, despair is out of the question.

Generosity: We get better when we’re generous with ourselves—and with others. Who says a journey must be fast—or easy? Who says progress must be linear? Who says we have to compare ourselves with anyone else? The fruit of generosity is patience.

Wholemindedness: Okay, that’s not really a word. But what I mean is this—when you feel stuck, it’s often because you’ve ceded too much to the analytical parts of your brain. Those parts of the brain are useful—really useful—but given too much control, they stifle the more intuitive parts, where insights and breakthroughs happen.

Openness: All around, we have teachers—books we love, authors we admire. As we’re open, as we pay attention, we learn from them, both by osmosis and by analysis.

Resilience: It’s my first spring in a place where the planting season begins in February, and I admit to being a bit plant-obsessed. But honestly, the most ordinary plant has a tremendous amount to teach us about resilience. The pretty green parts may be up top, but the real work happens below the surface, in the dirt, where roots reach and reach till they get what they’re after. Pruning (in reasoned amounts) only makes the plant stronger. And under stress, it blooms and blooms and blooms.