Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Practice, practice, practice

This is a response to A Recipe for Creative People.

Practice is great. I'm all for practice. But, if you're doing things wrong in the first place all the practice in the world isn't going to help much. It's simply going to ingrain bad habits. Sure, sometimes by doing something over and over again you start to realise that your method isn't necessarily working and you start to investigate other ways of working, but I think that's the exception rather than the norm.

When I used to weight train back in my twenties I followed a fairly strict regime. First you eat, and you eat well, then you let the food digest, then you exercise, then you rest. If you trained every day, which I did, you never worked the same set of muscles two days in a row. And, on top of all of that, I read everything I could about new food supplements (I found it hard to eat 3000 calories a day) and improved methods of training.

The most important thing was that, before I started, I studied how to do the kind of weight training I was interested in, what equipment I needed and what kind of training regime I should be considering. Before I began I had a plan, a plan I tweaked over the months, but a solid starting point nevertheless. I had a goal and I had a time frame.

Writing is no different. First I read regularly. It is a proven fact that good writers are good readers. I don't read too much and I vary what I read. I write daily but it's not always fiction. Personally, I edit as I write. It's a different kind of writing. And I don't overdo it. Sure, every now and then I've felt supercharged and write for hours and hours but that's rare, a treat. I also love to read or listen to authors talking about how they write, just in case I can see a better way of doing it.

The thing about writing is that it is easy to pick up a pen and get stuck in. Personally I don't see it as any different from weight training. There is method and technique to writing and there are plenty of books out there that talk about the various aspects of writing, character development, plotlines etc. Most aspiring writers need to read these.

I suppose it's an ego thing but I suspect that most writers like to think that they're naturals. Well, a few are. But natural ability is only a starting point. With a good attitude and a decent training regime who knows what you could write.


Conda Douglas said...

Excellent post, Jim. And too true.

It can even be a bit of a problem if you do have a touch of talent and a touch of luck. My first professional publication came at the age of 12, by luck. Which set me up for believing that it would always be that easy. Wrong.

And your analogy about weight training is very apt. I'm a exercise instructor and everybody can move, more or less. So why not jump right in? And get injured.

Kathy McIntosh said...

Good post, Jim.
I think we can practice, in the wrong position, and not improve.
I know I started writing fiction after years of writing marketing and public relations documents, so assumed it would be an easy transition.
For me, it was not. I have to combine writing, reading, studying, and getting feedback and STILL I have trouble with telling not showing.
But I love the process and the learning. And the reading.

Zen of Writing said...

I agree. Everyone has inspiration, but persistence, a workable routine, is also needed.

Ping services