Mario Villalobos


I read the first short story from Flannery O’Connor’s book, Everything That Rises Must Converge, and it was great. It was better than great, it was awe-inspiring. Her very first line revealed so much in a single sentence that I feel embarrassed for my sentences. How powerful a simple sentence can be. I love learning this stuff. I only read the story once, but I’m going to read it again tonight before bed, and I think, once I read the rest of the book, I’m going to transcribe a few short stories and start learning from them as much as I can. Because wow: I’m a sorry excuse for a writer.

If I want to get into graduate school, and not just any graduate school, a great graduate school, I have to be a better writer. I have to tear my writing down and build it up again with writers that are a thousand times better than me. I have to learn and I have to read and I have to write. Above all I have to write and agonize over every sentence. I really think if I did that with my novel, my 77,000 words can easily turn into 30,000. Maybe I’m being a bit too extreme, but that’s how I feel right now.

I have this abnormal desire to be just be the best right now, and it’s driving my every thought, my every move, and it makes me feel great. I’m also pushing my body every day to the extreme ends of what its capable of and those endorphins coursing through my veins feel amazing. They’re addicting, and I don’t know why more people don’t work out. Get your ass up and move people. Your body will thank you and there’s nothing wrong with looking amazing.

I love pushing myself when I’m tired, especially when I’m tired, because that’s the only way I’ll get stronger. That’s the only way anyone will get stronger. It applies to everything other than exercise. I’m a better writer today than I was six years ago, but I’m still pushing myself harder than ever. Even if I write a million words a year (2,700 words a day — totally doable), that doesn’t guarantee mastery or anything. Mastery means more than just doing something. If that activity is done mindlessly, then you’ll be at the same level you were a decade before, if that’s how long you’ve been doing it. It takes deliberate practice to improve, and that means complete focus and determination to be better. That’s where my mind is right now. And I want to be better.

For me, that starts with my sentences. My subjects and my verbs. Those simple and complex ones. And everything in between and around them. I focus so much on what I’m trying to say, and I don’t spend enough time in how I’m going to say it. It’s a shift in thinking, but it’s something I have to do. If it’s not hard, it’s not worth doing, right?