The process is commonly known in the sports world as “muscle memory.” A phenomenon not limited to athletes, writers engage in very similar practices in order to excel at their craft.
Storytelling, whether faction or fiction, uses the same principles. Training through exercising—writing—testing, adjusting, and exercising—rewriting—again.
Top athletes train for long hours in a concerted effort to become the best in their chosen sport. Quite often, a truly dedicated athlete begins at an early age and then trains for years before reaching the pinnacle of their division or field.
My training began while I was a little boy, sitting with my mother while she read Bible stories to me and my brother. To use a similar analogy, she was “priming the well” of my imagination.
By repetition of certain exercises, the body attunes itself to all the physical, mental and psychological responses needed to perfect the routine. After hundreds, even thousands of repetitions, the individual muscles “learn” their proper part in the perfect presentation of the routine.
Reading was a much-loved activity early on, and with it came a rapidly developing imagination. And, after many years of the uninterrupted reading of hundreds of books—including the Bible—my exercised imagination reached a tripwire of sorts that triggered the need to start writing.
The muscle memory of my mind brought bits and pieces of stories I had read into new relationships. Because I physically recorded the parts of the story, I unknowingly exercised my writing abilities.
After many, many years of reading and writing—exercising—the muscle memory of my mind provided certain elements of my craft automatically. Spelling; sentence structure; paragraph and chapter continuity. Even storylines carried throughout the telling of a tale.
These elements weren’t something I had to stop and think about. They were just there when I needed them.
I call it muscle memory for writers.