I've decided that I need to exercise my brain more. The other day, a good friend and I went to Portland and visited a wonderful yarn shop, the Yarn Garden. It is loaded with all kinds of fabulous yarns - everything from alpaca to hemp. I picked up a book with easy knitting instructions, bought a pair of knitting needles and another pattern book. When we got home, my friend gave me a quick lesson. I can do this, I figure. After all, my daughter knows how to knit, several of my friends know how to knit. Surely I can learn this.
Needless to say, when I went back to my little sample a couple of hours later, I had completely forgotten what to do and immediately proceeded to screw it up. I dropped stitches; made stitches too tight; you get the ugly picture.
Perfecting your writing is much like learning to knit. It isn't simply a case of sitting down and pounding on the keyboard. You need to study the craft. Whether you choose to do that by learning from an expert, taking classes, or reading a book, is up to you. No matter what route you choose, you need guidance. You have to learn the technique, just as I need to learn knitting techniques before I can knit a simple square. You must know grammar rules, how to craft a sentence, a paragraph, and a complete article or story.
Don't assume that because you read one book, had five minutes talking to an author, or took one class that you know everything you need to know about writing. It is an ongoing learning process. Look for opportunities in your community or online. I recently signed up for the Catholic Writers Conference, http://www.catholicwritersconference.com/index.php an online gathering with live chats and forums. You don't need to be a Catholic writer to attend this free conference. Granted some of the forums are geared toward writing as a Catholic, but many are not. The deadline for registering for this conference is February 15th. Take a moment to check it out. Another fabulous online conference is one I've written about before the Muse Online Conference, http://www.themuseonlinewritersconference.com/ You have until August 15 to register for this one.
Then, much like my decision to learn to knit, you will have to practice. Don't wait a week or a month to try to craft that first article or story. Once you've learned a new or better method, put it to work for you. Before I can become a knitter, I will need to look at my book again. I will probably need to ask my friend for more pointers, and I will need to practice, practice, practice.