Sharpening the Axe

But Chop some Wood too

If you’re struggling as a writer, one really successful method of procrastination is to get better at writing. You can read, and think critically about what you’re reading. Take writing classes. Go to seminars, conferences, workshops, conventions. Read books on writing by famous successful writers. Listen to podcasts.

At some point, you need to do some actual writing.

I often think of chopping wood with an ax. If you go to chop some wood, you want a sharp ax. But if you’ve never sharpened an ax or chopped any wood, you might not know, you can oversharpen an ax. And overly sharpened ax can glance off the wood in a very unpleasant (even dangerous) way. Part of how an ax chops wood is sheer blunt force trauma, and if your ax is too sharp it will slide off the surface of the wood.

Now, obviously writing isn’t chopping wood. But I think if you’re overly concerned with that perfect edge, it might be impossible to get any work done. You might simply sit there, glancing off the sheer surface of the first sentence, unable to get a word out for fear it’s wrong.

I don’t think there’s any secret answer to how much time you should spend getting better at writing, as a ratio to how much time you should spend actually writing. But I often think of the 80/20 rule, that 80% of results come from 20% of the effort, and I think about icebergs. And I think your ratio should probably be somewhere in that area if you spend 10 hours a day on the craft, then 8 or 9 of those hours should be spent actually writing, and only an hour spend on improving your writing.

So now that you’ve successfully wasted a few minutes on this blog, you’ll probably want to whet your quill and get to scribing.

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