Natalie Goldberg speaks at length about how, as writers, we must practice writing.  Much the way a runner must practice and train to get better.  We must work our writing muscles.

She recommends 10 minutes of writing practice sessions.  Sometimes she challenges herself to write for 30.  It’s simple: Just give yourself a topic.  Like trains or how the light comes into the room.  Her rules say you put pen to paper and you don’t stop writing until the time limit is up.  You do not edit, you don’t even punctuate or capitalize.  Just write.  You must not censor anything that wants to come out and you let the thoughts go where they may.  At the end of the time period, you will have stronger muscles and maybe some insights or ideas.

I have altered her rules a bit as I find it difficult, physically, to write that long without stopping.  And my daily journalling, I believe, contains enough of that free flow, non-stop, non-censored writing.  My rules say to write 2 sides of a piece of paper without stopping, but for a moment, if I need to readjust my hand.  I try not to let the thoughts stop even if I must take a break.  I keep to the topic as much as possible. If I need to, I just repeat it.  Everything I’ve got on trains.  What more do I have to say about trains?  I ask to continue.  As Natalie instructs, though, I allow myself to be lead by the thoughts on trains to a memory or idea that surrounds it.

However you do it, the idea is to keep practicing.  To realize that you will get out of shape if you don’t write.  It’s about repeating the process over and over again. This repetition will build muscle tone and make you a better writer.  I find, too, it helps to dislodge any blockages.  Nothing breeds writing like writing.

Paint a lot and you will become a better painter.  Practice an instrument so you can hear improvement.  The more you run, the more you can run.  The better you warm up, the better your run will be.  It’s simple.  Award winning athletes do not get that way from just entering tournaments.  It’s the hours of practice they put in before the event which paves the way for their excellent performances.