What we learn to do we learn by doing.
Aside from being a writer, I am a juggler by trade. I have been performing with my husband for almost 20 years making kids laugh and getting paid for it. What I didn’t know when I started juggling, was how learning to juggle would change how I learned everything else.
If you have ever picked up three balls and tried to juggle, you know that for most of us, it doesn’t happen naturally. That fact is, it took me a month to learn to juggle 3 balls. For 5 minutes every day, I would throw the balls up in the air just to have them fall back on the ground. Failure. Everyday. Failure.
Yet I persisted. Fortunately, I had a goal in mind when I started. There was this cute bartender at a local watering hole…and he juggled. Spurred on by hormones or whatever, I kept juggling every day until I did it. It wasn’t pretty, but I did it. Although the bartender was not overly impressed with my juggling, he married me anyway.
Like I said, I was juggling, but it wasn’t that good. It didn’t flow and it wasn’t flashy. With a good teacher by my side, I set off to make it better. I juggled for a little bit every day whether I felt like it or not. I learned new tricks and learned to work with different props. Some days, I was amazing. I could catch everything and learning new things was easy. Other days, I spent more time picking up the balls from the ground than throwing them. But, much like the stock market, the general trend was up.
When I started to write in earnest, I took the things I learned about juggling and applied them to writing. I’m not just talking about the consistency or even the long term determination of writing to get better. It’s about not being afraid to fail. It’s about failing at the first draft or second or twentieth and committing to work through it until you get it right. It’s about letting a critique group read your work and not being afraid of negative feedback. It’s about not being afraid of the rejection letter. Every time I dropped a ball, I was one step closer to catching one. Each new rejection letter is one step closer to the next acceptance.
If you want to learn to juggle, check out the International Jugglers Association at www.juggle.org.