When I was training in martial arts, we repeated certain techniques – holds, locks, chokes, throws, punches, kicks, et cetera – over and over again. The reasoning was simple: the longer we repeated a motion, the more engrained it became. When we sparred or grappled, those motions became automatic. We suddenly had our opponent in a lock or choke because our muscles remembered what our brains sometimes forgot in the moment of an adrenaline rush.
Writing and drawing have an affinity with muscle memory; the longer I write or draw, the easier it becomes. My hands are familiar with the keys on the keyboard or with the way I hold a pencil. I’ve absorbed the writing rules so well that I follow them automatically.
That isn’t to say I’m an automaton. The point of muscle memory is to have an action become so instilled in myself that I can begin to apply that knowledge in different ways. In martial arts, I discovered that the techniques we used with our boken and sticks had application to locks and throws.
Similarly, my knowledge of the writing rules allows me to break them, and I probably break them more often now than I ever did. Why? Because I know the rules. Because my muscles remember, but my brain says to try something different. Because I want to see the technique applied differently. Because I want to see what happens when I experiment with a technique or rule I know so well that it has become second nature.