This morning I was thinking about how we learn to do things. The other night, Sam’s baseball team had to help the Challenger league. This is a league for children with special needs. Sam was paired with a non-verbal autistic child. Sam is a really quiet, introverted child if he doesn’t know you. When he was little and we would visit grandparents, Sam would cry and hide until he felt comfortable. For Sam to be a mentor player with a non-verbal autistic child, he had to push past his comfort level and put himself “out-there”. It was amazing to watch this other side of my son appear. He was encouraging and patient with a ball player who was more interested in throwing the coaching clipboard than wearing his glove or standing in the ready position. But when Sam’s player hit the ball off the tee, Sam ran with him to first base, gave him a high-five, and said, “That was a great hit!” When his player would throw his glove on the ground, Sam would pick it up, help him get it on his hand, and once again show him how to stand in the ready position. A minute later, the same dance would begin again.
Where did my introverted babe learn this behavior? I know he saw it modeled a lot when he was growing up and I was running a preschool from our home. But he also has learned sometimes you just have to make yourself leave your comfort zone. You can’t grow if you are always comfortable.
I think I have loved to sing ever since I was born. I remember being two, maybe three, and singing along with the radio. You know how children sing and mumble when they don’t know all the words. I can’t think I knew all the words then, but I remember thinking, “I am a really good singer. Someday, someone is going to notice me and invite me to sing on the radio.” (Yep, no self-esteem problems here!) 🙂
I have been singing ever since. I was in musicals in high school and college. I sang in the concert chorale in high school and college and was in the honor madrigal. I took solos to state and was in the All-State chorus. But I didn’t get to do all those things by sitting around and “wishing” I could sing. I sang. Every day. All the time. Even when I didn’t feel like singing, I would sing. I would get up early for rehearsals. I would stay up late for rehearsals and then do homework before bed. I said, “No” to some things so I could practice and rehearse. It took work to be the singer I was and to have the roles I had.
Being a writer is the same. Epictetus said, “If you wish to be a writer, write.” My favorite quote is from Natalie Goldberg. Here is what she said about writing.
Like running, the more you (write), the better you get at it. Some days you don’t want to run and resist every step of the three miles, but you do it anyway. You practice whether you want to or not. Don’t wait around for inspiration and a deep desire to run. It’ll never happen, especially if you are out of shape and have been avoiding it. But if you run regularly, you train your mind to cut through or ignore your resistance. You just do it. And in the middle of the run, you love it. When you come to the end, you never want to stop. And you stop, hungry for the next time.
That’s how writing is, too. Once you’re deep into it, you wonder what took you so long to finally settle down at the desk. Through practice you actually get better. You learn to trust your deep self more and not give in to your voice that wants to avoid writing.
Fluency is when you become so comfortable with anything, that it becomes second-nature. Writers develop writing fluency. Singers develop singing fluency. Teachers develop teaching fluency. Do you go to school every day feeling ready to teach? And even though you don’t feel like teaching, are you still able to go into the classroom and teach? Fluency. It takes time to develop fluency. You have to force yourself to keep at it, even when it is hard and takes a lot of thought. We have to work to become fluent with writing, just like with everything else we do.
Think about a habit you have, either good or bad. How did you develop it?