The Secret to Good Writing is Practice by Carmen Hartono

by | Jun 18, 2019 | Entry | Blog writing competition | 1 comment

You might have heard the joke about the New York tourist wanting directions.
“How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” he asked.
“Practice!” came the quick answer.

What is true for musicians is true for writers. The secret to good writing is practice. Practice makes perfect. I remember taking many writing courses and hearing the same thing: Daily reading and writing is the key for success.

With that imperative, I reflected on my life and realized that for as long as I could remember, I had always enjoyed reading and writing. My mom and I came from El Salvador to the US when I was five years old. We came alone and only had each other. And since she had to work, I found myself spending many hours in solitude and contemplation.

I soon as I was able, I began hiding all my secrets into a small diary with a lock and key that my mom had given me. When I was ten, she was finally able to afford to send me to a Catholic school. There, the holy sisters gave me the most precious gift, my own bible. A half a century later, I still have both my first diary and bible.

As I got older and was challenged with difficult reading and writing assignments, I was always able to return to the comfort of my bible as a familiar friend. Perhaps it was because the bible was never required reading that it became my favorite book.

Another reason the bible became my preferred book might be due to my love of math and science. Spanish was my native tongue; English was difficult for me. So I quickly gravitated towards math as a logical language understood bilingually. The bible is obviously not math or science, but it is truthful. The bible is not fiction. It is historical, mythological, poetic, etc., and therefore non-fiction.

While it might seem odd to some for a kid to be fascinated by math, science and the bible, it all seemed logical to me. I never enjoyed fantasy or fiction. I always preferred facts and truth. Math gave me a tool to process facts. And the bible gave me a pathway to truth. As early as fifth grade, I was thinking out the logic of nuclear physics and had decided to eventually become an engineer.

And then I became a teenager and got married. I am embarrassed to admit how young I was when I fell in love and got married. Like the boys who left the ‘Giving Tree’ and ‘Puff, the Magic Dragon,’ I abandoned my childhood friends and devoted myself completely to my new love. With faith that I would someday return, my mom neatly tucked all my memorabilia into a box.

To say I was not prepared for marriage would be an understatement. So I automatically turned to look for guidance from books. My best friend’s mother gave me a copy of Erich Fromm’s ‘The Art of Loving’ which I read as I did the bible. These and other similar books fed my hunger for psychology, philosophy and eventually theology. My favorite became Carl G. Jung’s ‘The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious.’

In retrospect, I look at my marriage as the lived experience that led to more reading and writing. My husband John is not a Catholic. But he always enjoyed reading everything, including the bible. He attended Catholic schools and knows a lot about my faith. But he immigrated from a predominately Muslim family, culture, and nation. Consequently, he opened up a new world to this young woman who had immigrated from a Catholic family, culture and nation.

John and I were married in a Catholic church mostly out of tradition than any true faith commitment. Children came into our lives, and these individual human beings intrigued me. Eventually, all of humanity captivated me. My interest in the humanities stemmed from my devotion to my family. I wanted to know everything I could about them.

My original interest in nuclear physics led to me wanting to know my family on a deeper level—a level that I quickly found to be out of reach for ordinary science. Also, nothing speaks to me, as does the bible. So finally, after a lifetime of writing my thoughts, I decided to compile my spiritual journey into the book ‘Chronicles of a Catholic Housewife: Forty Years Toward the Promised Land.’

As long as I am able, I plan to continue to read and write daily. By attending Holy Mass, I can listen to the daily bible reading. Daily Mass attendance over a three-year period leads to the reading and reflection of the entire bible. Plus, after hearing the good news, I feel better equipped to read what I call the “bad news” of current affairs.

Thanks to social media like Facebook, I am able to share my thoughts daily. Where I once was a solitary lonely child, I now feel connected to the world. So, I testify to the importance of reading and writing everyday.

1 Comment

  1. Claire

    What I love about this book is its straightforward narrative that talks about life and the craft of writing. Indeed, writing is a reflection of life, and it’s transparent in this book.


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