Yesterday I practiced writing. Today I am practicing writing. Tomorrow I will practice writing.
Are you seeing a pattern here? Practice is a repeated action. The practitioner repeats the action because he is attempting to acquire proficiency.
When I was young(er), I played the organ, and later the piano. But I only played after minutes, hours, days, weeks and months of practice. Before I did all that practicing, I was just making noise. If you don’t believe me, ask my family.
I started with the scales, running up the keyboard and down for an eternity. No, I guess it just felt like that. After a while, I noticed my scales were smooth and sure. I no longer had to think about which finger to place on which key. It began to feel natural.
At that point, I moved on to simple tunes, before graduating to more complex melodies… using both hands! Finally, I employed my feet on the foot pedals. Miracle of miracles, I was playing the organ. What’s more, my teacher and parents could actually identify the song.
Once I reached that startling level of proficiency, did I stop practicing? Not on your life. I had to practice more. Every day. At least once a day, sometimes twice. When I started playing at Mass and for weddings, the practicing increased exponentially. I didn’t stop daily practice until I left for the service.
And do you know what happened in the five years I didn’t practice? I forgot how to place my fingers. I forgot how to read the notes on the pages without quickly counting the lines on the musical staff. My fingers and wrists were stiff and didn’t want to float across the keys as I needed them to.
So what does this have to do with Jeff Goins’ writing challenge?
Writers practice their art every day. Every. Day.
They practice because they are perfecting their style. While practicing, they discover their voices; they find a genre they’re comfortable writing. They become comfortable in the skin of “the writer.”
So I practice my art by sitting down and writing each day. Maybe a flash fiction piece, or a chapter for my novel. It may be something silly or sad, romantic or rambunctious. Whatever I work on, I’m putting words on paper. In so doing, I am aware of the texture, the tone, the energy of the words, the layers of meaning and moods within the words. I become proficient as a writer.
What did you do when you were younger that reminds you of the benefits gained from practice?
Was it a Little League victory, or a medal in ice ballet? Was it making the winning touchdown, or avoiding a major explosion in the science lab?
Whatever it was, call to mind the memory of that moment when you knew it was “right” and everything in your world flowed as it was meant to. Leave a comment and tell us what you discovered about yourself from that experience of practicing something you loved.