I picked up the clarinet in 5th grade. I remember the sharp squeaks, ear-splitting screeches, and mournful squawks of my earliest practice sessions at home. Even after a few years of playing with the school band, I never mastered the instrument and eventually lost interest. From that experience, however, I gained a genuine appreciation for anyone who can master the clarinet and truly bring it to life in performance.
Mastering writing is like learning a musical instrument—let’s say a violin—and dreaming of one day playing with a professional orchestra. No one would think that playing a violin could be mastered in a few hours, days, or even years. To reach a level of mastery and professional performance takes hours and hours, day after day, year after year.
We get that mastering an instrument takes time, persistence, and perseverance. We understand–perhaps because we can hear the difference between a novice’s early attempts and when a master plays—that there is nothing instant about becoming a musician.
Yet, for some reason, we writers often expect publication to come on the heels of our first writing efforts. I get questions all the time from young, aspiring writers about how to get published right away. I was probably no different. I had my eye on publishing long before I understood how many squeaks and squawks I had to work on or how much hard work lay ahead.
Writing is like picking up an instrument. It requires practice—and patience—in the never-ending mastery of craft.
Below: one of my favorite orchestral pieces, Die Moldau, performed by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Bedrich Smetana conducting. (Look for the clarinet!)