I think I first heard this sentiment when I was eight while handing in my writing assignment to my teacher. She cocked her head sideways—as she was wont to do—and continued to explain that better writing was not to be achieved with sheer luck; it took dedication with many errors along the way.
Now, some people in the education field will tell you that making mistakes is necessary and should be a natural part of learning. Folks from other camps claim that mistakes are bad in some forms of learning. I fall in a camp somewhere in between.
Depending on which aspect of writing you consider, knowing the right way may or may not be enough. The grammar aspect of writing certainly falls under the category of “knowing the right way is enough.” Yet, the complicated process of formulating intricate plots full of interesting characters in a work of fiction may lend itself to the “knowing the right way isn’t enough” school of thought. In other words, memorizing grammar rules and style books leaves little need for mistakes; writing an intriguing, well-crafted work of fiction may require many “mistakes” along the way.
As I grew older, I took to writing poetry, but I failed to heed the internal and external voices and only wrote when I felt inspired. I continue to be that way with poetry, not wanting to force words onto a surface without some sort of clear inspiration to the whole process. However, I will have to reconsider my philosophy.
You see, I’ve been forced to write or rewrite something for a freelance job every morning for the last three and a half weeks. Normally “morning” and “writing” would be far apart from each other in my mental calculation of what must be done on any given day; however, this job has forced me to cozy the two words up a little closer.
Now I dare say that the process of not only writing in the morning but also writing every day has changed the crazy little chemical cocktails in my brain. Although I had a strong English background before I started, remembering the finer nuances of whether that extra comma rule was from the AP Stylebook or the Chicago Manual of Style has really swished the old gray matter around. Switching between styles is difficult; doing it without mistakes is even more difficult.
However, writing every day has allowed me to see old habits I have learned, and sometimes those habits are ones I have to unlearn because I learned them incorrectly. Writing every day has also made me more self-conscious about not only my own writing but also the writing of others. I edit my and other people’s mistakes. I teach myself or other people about the mistakes.
Now please excuse me while my brain melts.