The Writer’s Alphabet vol. 18; “R” is for Repetition


I read a lot about writing. I probably read too much about writing and should spend more time writing, than reading about writing. That being said, one of the common bits of advice that repeatedly appears in what I read is that good writing comes down to repetition. This includes specific pieces, but also general processes. Another is to cut down on the use of the word “that”. I clearly need to reread those articles as I’m sure you noticed I used “that” FIVE TIMES in this paragraph. That being said, repetition is key to producing good written works and here is what I’ve come up with as supportive evidence:

Repeating any action allows us to learn the best way we do it. Other people might do it better, faster, and have more success with the action in question, but screw them and who cares, because all we can control is how we do something. We can try to emulate the greats, but ultimately it comes down to increasing our own skill to its highest possible level. The more we do something the more we find that peak will be ever growing.

With writing – and editing by extension – I have found repetition is essential to cutting through the bullshit and getting to the good shit. The more I write, the more confident I am with what I have written because I am feeling the words, the sentences, and the overall piece. The end work might be a piece of street garbage, strewn aside after the bits of ecstasy it contained have been drained, but a great editor always helps. My confidence isn’t hubris, it’s educated. I can point out why something doesn’t work, and how it can be improved. This comes from repeatedly writing crap, and editing the crap out of it. Referencing my grammar notebook also helps.

I know this post echoes Malcolm Gladwell’s ideas with respect to the 10,000 hour rule. Some people only need 1 and some will need 20,000, but no matter who you are or how talented you are, time and repetition are the constants. Some people don’t need any at all. As this article states it’s more about Frans Johansson’s “the click moment”, and argues luck plays a large role. It is up to a person to “place a large number of bets” to create possible click moments. By extension, I would argue that repetition and practice are the bet placing actions, leading to the luck or click moments. In addition, to borrow the term, “click moments”, the more we do something the more we find our best way of doing it. This leads to us realizing, or “clicking”, on our “magic” process which we use to create our best work.

I find when I have let myself lag with actual writing, my mind isn’t in tune. I can’t think of synonyms, my sentences are long, and I use “that” way too much. I can tell, and because I have spent many hours writing, I know I have written better things. I know the editing muscles are going to have to be exercised. This is because of the repetition of not writing so it can work on both sides of the situation.

I like what C.S. Lewis had to say about repeated failures:

“Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward towards success.”
― C.S. Lewis

Follow the link below for more quick quips. One is in Dutch. International action! Hurrah!



About jtkwriting

Writer living in Toronto. "Sneak out of your window darling, let's live like outlaws honey." View all posts by jtkwriting

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