I went bowling yesterday. I haven’t been bowling for absolutely ages and, as a result, I have a couple of little muscle niggles because muscles I forgot I had had been neglected for so long. But that being said, I had a pretty good run. Started off okay. Got a handful of spares in my first game, occasionally missed the whole lot on the second bowl, but was relatively happy with it. My second game was a cracker – two strikes in two frames, two spares and a strike to round it out.
And it occurred to me that writing is like bowling.
Just go with me here.
I promise there’ll be no metaphorical ‘strike’ jokes either.
It’s often said that writing is like a muscle. If you don’t write for absolutely ages, your characters might not feel right, your plot points formulaic and rusty. But even if you don’t write for awhile and sit down to have a session, you can still manage to get a decent result. Not a great one, but something that you’ll feel reasonably happy with. You’ll come up with some good ideas, some unique twists and turns for plot and character, occasionally you’ll hit something that’s completely out there or entirely wrong on so many levels for your project, but you’ll have something.
The more you keep writing, the more likely you are to stumble onto the golden moments more often. The more time you spend with your characters, the more easily you’re going to realise the honest moments, the moments that make you gasp/cry/cackle hysterically in delight. The more time you spend in your world, the more opportunities for stories you’ll find, the more hidden characters you’ll discover and the more running themes you’ll uncover. Your writing brain won’t be clinging to the first cliché it hits in your mind because it’s already miles past it, having been regularly exercised.
Even when you’re on a roll, you’ll still hit the bad ideas. The catastrophically awful ideas. The ones that make no sense to plot or character. But keep them in your back pocket. You might find a way to turn them into something awesome (like I did, when I had to get a spare on my last frame in my second game to win, missed everything then managed to score a strike on my second bowl…then missed everything on my third. Wait, I think I’m mixing metaphors).
But if I was to start bowling every day, I reckon I’d become pretty good at it. Continually exercising and strengthening the muscles in my arms and legs I need to throw a bowling ball at a bunch of pins. Yeah, I’m still probably going to throw one or two balls that go slightly awry, but the majority of the times I’ll be on the money. Give myself the best possible chance to get a perfect game when it counts. It makes sense to do the same for writing. To write every day – it doesn’t have to be scriptwriting, it can be development writing, to spend time with your characters, in their world, to give yourself the best possible chance to write the best story for them.
Why wouldn’t you?
You never know which script is going to be your opportunity for the perfect game. May as well perfect your technique for when the chance arises.