Thursday, June 8, 2017

Like Writing a Bike

Posted by: Joshua Roots

There's a saying from my previous career about "knocking rust off your skill". Basically, folks who had been away too long needed to knock off the rust in order to get back to their previous level of performance. Granted, that was always said tongue-in-cheek, but it's amazing the accuracy of that phrase.

Spend too much time on any task and you lose your edge. Whether it's working a day job, hitting the gym, flying a high-performance aircraft, or writing, the brain and body can only operate at peak performance before demanding a break. Time to spool down, relax, recuperate, and recharge. In almost every facet of life, giving yourself a break allows you to come back a little better, a little harder, and a lot sharper than before.

But like with many things in life, it's not as easy as it sounds...

A while back I returned to "active writing mode"* after a bit of a break. I assumed it was like riding a bike and I'd fire up some manuscripts, then pound away on the keyboard with my old ferocity. Only I didn't. Instead, I sat there, staring at the existing words, wondering what in the world to do next.

Returning to writing, apparently, wasn't like riding a bike at all.

And that, right there, was a shock. While creating The Shifter Chronicles, I cranked out consistent word counts, refusing to allow myself to go to bed until reaching them. But having been away from  that intense process for a little while, getting back into the swing of things wasn't an easy flip of a switch. Not only did new worlds need to be built, but new characters fleshed out and new plot lines redrawn. More important, the actual process of BICHOK (Butt-In-Chair-Hands-On-Keyboard) had to be relearned.

But much like falling off a bike, getting back on is only half of the equation. The other half is actually pedaling.

Sad to say, a lot of people won't bother with the first part, much less the second. A lot of folks will take a break from something they were "good" at, only to walk away forever when they discover even the slightest atrophy of skill.

For a lot of writers, however, that's not an option. Birthing a story is a passion and one that deserves to be "re-learned" despite the effort required to do so. We hear the call of the keyboard, the siren song of the words, and we plop down in the chair after an absence to muscle through the reeducation process. And like pull-ups, the only way to get good at writing is to do it. We can research all we want, talk about our outlines, but BICHOK is the only way the images in our heads will find life on paper.

Breaks are good for the mind and the soul. Writing a book takes a lot out of a person, so it's absolutely warranted that they deserve a little down time between stories. But writers, myself included, also have to remember that getting back into the swing of things might not always be as easy as it was when we were in the thick of it.

And you know what? That's okay. Maybe it's not like riding a bike, but a little extra effort to knock the rust off our skills is worth it when it's in pursuit of something we love.

*which essentially means I was no longer thinking about the words I wanted to write, but actually putting pen to paper.


Joshua Roots is a car enthusiast, beekeeper, and storyteller. He enjoys singing with his a cappella chorus, golf, and all facets of Sci-Fi/Fantasy. He's still waiting for his acceptance letter to Hogwarts and Rogue Squadron. He and his wife will talk your ear off about their bees if you let them.

His Urban Fantasy series, The Shifter Chronicles, is available wherever digital books are sold.

There's a LOT of rust coming off his keyboard....

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