"You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working; in just the same way you lear to love by loving."
I found the quote above in a quarterly journal for cardiac patients put out by St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. My husband is on their mailing list but it's filled with so much good information that both of us read it. When I saw the quote above, I silently added ..to write by writing. Anantole France, who is the person quoted, was a poet, novelist, and journalist in Paris. He died nearly a hundred years ago but his wisdom is still pertinent today.
We definitely learn by doing. We can read a dozen books about writing. We can attend half a dozen writers' conferences. We can discuss writing with other writers. But the number one most important thing in my estimation is to learn by actually writing. I'm not advocating that this is the only way to learn how to write. All those other things will also help. Immeasurably! Still, we must write in order to learn more about writing.
I've heard and read many times that the first 3 or 4 novels anyone writes are meant to be hidden in a drawer because they are so bad. Probably not true for every single writer in the world. Some are great hits from day one but that lot is pretty small in number. The majority of writers write poorly when they start out.
A basketball player might shoot baskets for hours every day to perfect his shot and be good enough to be recruited by a top college team. Track stars don't start out winning golf medals the first time out. Opera stars didn't have it down pat the first time they stepped onto a stage.
We must write on a regular basis to become better writers. Write something every day. Even if it's nothing more than keeping a journal, but even if that is what you write, do it with thought and make it your best writing rather than a series of jotted down thoughts. Let the journal be your practice pad for writing. How about those of you who are doing the Morning Pages exercise? Dredge up your best effort for that, too.
Learn to write by writing. It's as simple as that.