by | Mar 12, 2024 | Writing | 0 comments

a series of cogs and flywheels

I’ve come to realize something really important about writing: it’s not all art.

Wait, before I get cancelled for gatekeeping what “counts” as art, I want to clarify: what I mean is that the act of writing is not always artistic. In fact, I would argue that the art of writing is supported by the mechanics of skill.

I recently got a job that involves writing six thousand words a day. I know. For many of you reading this, that’s a lot of writing. I felt the same way before I started. I went from writing nothing for months, to churning out prose like my paycheck depended on it (because it does). So what gives? Well, I don’t write the outline, I didn’t create the characters, and all I have to do is hit a daily quota according to an idiosyncratic style guide. It’s writing by numbers, and it happens mechanically.

I don’t think enough gets said about the mechanical skills involved with writing. Understanding how to write dialogue, pace action scenes, and balance interiority with description are all skills that can be learned regardless of whatever talent you think you have (or think you don’t have). I hadn’t realized how much I was discounting these mechanics until I started relying on them. I thought, in some deep sense, that all writing required a deep well of emotion and the ability to take on a heavy cognitive load. But that’s not true. Work can be written by pure mechanics alone.

I’m not saying not to be discerning about what words you put down. I still write my own fiction every morning, and I’m more of an artisan than a mechanic when it comes to my own work. It takes far more effort and is far more gratifying. However, it wouldn’t be possible without a strong foundation in the mechanics.

So, for those of you who want to write a little more prolifically: oil your machine and kick that baby on.


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