System Fluency and Writing

A friend used a term the other day that got me thinking: system fluency. They used it in the context of tabletop RPGs, but I think it really applies to pretty much anything. You can be fluent in a second (or third, or more) language. We learn fluency in the system of our workplaces, in the terms and jargons of our fields of work. Fluency in navigating the systems of where we live, everything from the public transit systems of a city to the rhythms of rural areas (and everything in between). Even the most ad-hoc, thrown together, internally inconsistent set of things we do, well, it may not be an organized system, but we still gain fluency in using it.

Assuming we use it consistently enough to say we're getting practice, any rate.

Which, if I may awkwardly pivot to writing, is part of the reason (I think) writers are encouraged to write every day. We don't just need to develop the habit of making the time to write. Or finding the words when we're uninspired. Or getting out of the latest corner we wrote ourselves into.

We need to develop the system fluency of grammar. Of the rhythms of our own writing.

We spend years learning fluency in speaking our native tongues. Writing means we need to learn a new, if related, rhythm, of how words and sentences sound when read instead of spoken. I know this is where a lot of my bad habits in writing come from. I write like I talk, which means I drop pronouns, write complex sentences with lots of parenthetical clauses followed up by short fragmentary sentences. Like this. Also I skip description. Obviously that thing we're talking is right in front of us, why would I need to describe that thing you can see. ::sighs:: I'm working on that, I promise.

I'm working on it because, in the words of Lois McMaster Bujold, the reward for a job well done is usually a harder job. Because gaining writing fluency means we spend less time trying to get that one sentence right and instead, in the same amount of time, write two. Or three, or four. But, because we've gained that fluency, we see all the inadequacies of the first sentence. And by gods if the goal posts for 'good writing' haven't moved farther down the field, then honestly I don't think you've met very many writers (or other creative types — seen this happening with artists of all stripes too).