Anyone who has ever labored over a writing assignment knows that writing is hard work. While it does not require the same physical effort as lifting heavy objects, it is often very heavy lifting indeed. While it does not require the same physical effort as pounding metal rods into concrete, pounding on a keyboard can be just as stressful to your body and infinitely more stressful to your brain. However, writing does have something in common with physical labor and athletics.
Anyone who has ever played a sport or worked with their hands know that there is a point during the learning process when you no longer need to think about what your hands or body are doing to achieve a certain task. A baseball player can process a pitch before it leaves the pitcher's fingers, make calculations on the physical motion and path of the ball, and then make adjustments to his body and bat. Later on, he could explain in detail the process he used to determine his swing, but at the time he relies on muscle memory to achieve it without conscious thought.
This simple trick of muscle memory is the reason for repetitive practice drills for athletes and the reason that older, more experienced manual laborers can work faster than their younger and more physically-fit peers. The older carpenter does not have to think about the process of placing a board, situating a nail, and then fastening it in place with a nail. He has successfully completed this process thousands perhaps millions of time over his professional life. His body knows what to do without conscious direction on his part.
Experienced writers also fall back on this trick of muscle memory. We internalize vocabulary, grammar rules, sentence structure, organizational patterns, and all the other tools of the writing trade. One of the ways to improve your writing is to increase your personal store of muscle memories or writing tricks. How do you accomplish this? By using your brain.
This means that you will never be done learning and growing as a writer. Accept that and revel in it. Continuing to learn and grow as a writer means that you must continually read. Read for knowledge, both in your field and out of it, and read for style, both authors you would love to emulate and those whose style is at odds with your own. Do not simply restrict yourself to professional writers either. I know as a writing teacher that I learn from my students all the time.
Learning and growing as a writer also means you must continually practice your craft. Write on a regular basis but do not simply write for a specific purpose (such as to earn money). Remember what drew you to writing in the first place and write for pleasure. Write for fun. Take risks with your writing and experiment with different forms and genres. Not all writing needs to be shared with others and much of this may never be read by eyes other than your own, but stretching yourself as a writer will always make you a better writer in the long run - so it is not wasted effort.
Writing is very much a cerebral activity but by continually working to improve yourself by reading and writing on a regular basis you can improve your muscle memory and your writing tool box.
Deanna Mascle shares more writing help and writing tips with her writing newsletters at http://wordcraftonline.com