For someone who doesn’t want kids of his own and certainly didn’t set out to be a teacher, I spend an inordinate amount of time working with students. Recently, I’ve been teaching a creative writing class. The first day, like most first days working with new students, I tell what I like to call my Walking, Level: Expert analogy. Apparently, I’d never shared this with my wife until recently. She thought it was worth writing down, so here it is.
I am an expert walker. I can walk forward. I can walk backward. I can walk from side to side and back again. I can even walk while chewing gum, which I hear is nigh impossible.
But I wasn’t always an expert level walker. I had to learn. I don’t remember the first time I walked, but I can take a pretty good guess what happened. If I was lucky, I fell on my ass, which at least has some padding to it. But I’m not really lucky, so I probably fell on my face.
I didn’t let that deter me, though. I kept walking. And I kept falling. When I fell, I’d assess my injuries–usually loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear–then I’d get back up and walk on.
It’s the same with writing. When you first start out, you’re going to stumble and fall. A lot. A whole lot. You’re going to start more projects than you finish. You’re going to write badly. The stories you do manage to finish that are halfway readable will be hackneyed rehashes of old plots.
And that’s okay.
The great thing about learning something new is knowing that no one cartwheeled out of the womb able to write, or sing, or cartwheel. Yes, there’s talent. But more than that, there’s the discipline to get back up after you fall and keep at it.
Hopefully, you’re lucky and you only fall on your ass. If you fall on your face, hopefully you’ve got someone (or more than one) to help you up, dust you off, and send you on your way. Eventually, you’ll gain enough experience to level up.
So get out there and fall as spectacularly as you can.