The other day I had the great pleasure of being able to go to the one place that the vast majority of mankind hates to go. No, not church or the in-law’s house or even to visit the accountant before tax season ends, the DMV. Yes, I had to go to that dreaded place and wait in the long lines with my wife and son in order to get our licenses and car registration changed over to Arizona (since we moved here from North Carolina last year). What’s worse, when we got to the initial counter of death (where they either give you hope by handing you a little number so that you can go sit down and wait some more or kick you to the curb because you don’t have everything yet) we discovered that we were missing some documents that we needed. Namely, our birth certificates. So we had to go home and get them. My wonderful wife was nice enough to drive because I was getting over a stomach bug. Considering that this was a 45 minute drive one way, we were not happy.
But we did it. Two hours later we’d made it through the lines and were sitting with one of the joyous DMV employees at their little windowless cubicle, glibly handing over all our documents while my son, Brycen, attempted to comb my hair with a wet orange sucker (he succeeded by the way). The woman who was helping us looked up my name in the system and made the following statement, “Looks like you already had an Arizona license at one point. We can just pull up your old info and update that. It will make things go much faster.” One minute later I was done and had my new AZ license in hand.
I thought about that experience this weekend and suddenly, LIGHTBULB!
Once you’ve already done something in the past, it’s easier to do it again in the future. Umm, Kevin – duh! Right? Well, yes and no. Let’s apply this to writing. Over the course of my writing life I have completed seven manuscripts. None of them have been published, but I still keep on writing. My first few were complete garbage. Really they were. A first book generally is. But that first book showed me that it was possible to write. It showed me that I could do it. And it taught me a lot about the English language that I wouldn’t have learned in an English Classroom (sorry English teachers but it’s true). When I started on my second book, the process was easier. I knew what didn’t work, how I like to write, and various other sundry things that sneak their way into what I write. The third book, easier still. It is a progressive building of layers upon layers of skill and ability.
So what’s the point?
The point is that writing and living life are of the arts, not of the sciences. Both require that you continue to work at it, that you continue to practice and develop your skill. You must adapt. The fact is, not everything you write is going to be pure gold, not everything that you begin in life is going to bear fruits. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing. Everything that you do once, if you continue in the same venue, will make your future journeys along that same path a simpler one. And perhaps you’ll learn, as I did while trying to get orange sucker out of my hair at the DMV, that the yesterdays of your past can help you out in the todays of your future.
You’ve heard the old adage that “Practice makes perfect.” What are some things that you’ve practiced that you are better at now? How has failing once or twice (or fifty-seven times) helped you to become better at what you do? Let us know in the comments.