Muscle memory and the writer…

I’ve had a bit of an odd job in my day job for the last three weeks or so. Not odd in that its something unusual to me, but the exact opposite in many respects. Unlike my normal day job, I was engaged to install from scratch a huge interconnected data network. Rather than my usual daily grind of maintaining an existing huge interconnected data networks… This may seem somewhat irrelevant to my other life as a writer, beyond what I do to pay the mortgage and keep the lights on, but bear with me, there is a point to this…

Installing huge interconnected data networks involves working with, and installing, a lot of network cables. This is not something unusual to me as it is basically what I used to do for a living in my twenties. Running in cables and dressing them, so they look neat, indeed the act of running cables through your hands and sorting through them to avoid kinks, little loops and knots is something of a dark art. You can not really teach someone how to do this, trust me I have tried with a couple of my colleagues in the last couple of weeks,  you learn by doing. More specifically your fingers learn, your hands learn, and your muscle’s ultimately learn… by doing the work. I did this for over a decade in my early working life. After a couple of days working with cable again, my fingers just remembered how to do it well, and the job was remarkably easy.

Of course, while muscle memory is a great thing, muscle amnesia is not so helpful. After a long day of working with cables, and running up and down ladders, and clambering over network cabinets I found I would go home and my body would suddenly remember that it is not in its early twenties anymore. Indeed it took great pains to point this out for several evenings on the trot… Mostly in the form of cramp, aching limbs and a knee that decided not to work when I stood up from the sofa at one point…  But still, after a few days, muscles I had forgotten about suddenly were remembering things and the work got steadily easier on the old frame…

Whats this got to do with writing, well rather a lot it seems to me. After the last post on getting back into the writing habit, I have actually been doing just that, and writing about five hundred words a day. Yet those first few days those five hundred words were a grind. It was hard work, and my brain was kicking back at me for the abuse it was suffering, in much the same way my body was doing because of the current work in the day job. Some of this was possibly to do with that day job project sapping my mental energies as well as my physical ones, but for the most part, it was simply kicking back against my making it think like a writer for a while.

Then muscle memory kicked in, and after a few days of hard slogging the years spent hammering away at keyboards started to pay off once more. It got easier, for no other reason than my brain (just another muscle in many respects) remembered subconsciously what it should be doing, and the words started to flow, five hundred a day became easy, and I am probably averaging closer to eight hundred a day now, and the mental muscle memory is taking the strain.

There is an old quote, which has more than a little truth in it. There are a lot of variations, but this particular incarnation is ascribed to Henrey Miller…


But its not just about writing a million words, throwing them away and suddenly you’re ready to be a writer. It’s about training those mental muscles. Building the synapses and mental pathways, so you think like a writer, or to be more exact, think like the writer you are. Then with luck, they will kick in when you need them and help with the heavy lifting.

To quote the Laird of Maine…


So, for the aspiring writers out their, my advice is simple, write, write and write some more. Write stories, write dialogues, write little skits and write longer forms, write shopping lists as adventures between the aisles, write anything, write everything, even silly little blog posts like this one. But do the most important thing and write a lot.

Train your mental muscles and they will pay you back a thousandfold…

Speaking of which, need to get some more writing done myself…

Adios for now


This entry was posted in goodreads, nanowrimo, opinion, pointless things of wonderfulness, writes, writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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