In 2009 Jamie and I got certified to carry concealed weapons. The instructor warned us that shooting is a perishable skill. It isn’t like riding a bike. “Go shooting at least once a month,” he said, “or you’ll lose your accuracy.”

Shooting isn’t the only perishable skill.

Creativity is perishable. Stop using it on a daily basis and it will recede into the dark corners of your mind. Optimism is perishable. I’ve never been an optimist. I tried it for a while, though, and it started to stick. I started seeing my way toward the solutions to problems instead of just seeing the problems. Even in the midst of some really hard times, I was able to keep a grasp on hope. It made me a better man. Then things got a little better for a time – at least in the ways that were important to me – and I didn’t notice the way other things were getting worse. I stopped exercising the optimism muscle and next thing I knew I was becoming a cynical bastard again. Anger nudged joy back out. I stopped seeing solutions. This is death for anyone who wants to have a job doing anything other than washing dishes. Or anyone with a family. A positive outlook is not optional in life unless you aspire to be unsuccessful and unhappy.

Creativity and optimism are also kissing cousins. Each works better when you have the other.

Writing is also a perishable skill. Sort of. For me, writing is a bit like riding a bike. I never forget how to do it. I just forget how to do it well. Writing every day makes you a better writer. There is no substitute for that, any more than there’s a substitute for doing the cardio for a healthier heart. You have to put in the time.

I’m going to be writing every day. Maybe I’ll start doing cardio, too.


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