Remember that time you wrote something and thought it was the best thing ever? I mean, it was so awesome that you got crazy excited and had to restrain yourself from showing it to everyone you knew. You were already getting yourself fired up about all the praise and attention everyone was going to shower you with. Picture it. There you are, sitting alone, holding your masterpiece in your hands, envisioning how you are going to become famous, and they are going to make a movie of what will soon be a national bestseller.
We’ve all been there at some point. Let’s fast forward a bit.
Two weeks later…
You return to look at your masterpiece. Just some proofreading. A missed word here. A grammar mistake there. Maybe you don’t exactly need that sentence. That word could definitely be replaced with something more eloquent. Your piece may not exactly be a masterpiece, but it’s still pretty great.
Fast forward a bit more.
Two months later…
Hmm. This definitely needs some work. Alright, that scene needs some patching up. I don’t even remember why I wrote that. It’s so irrelevant. Nope. Delete. I can do better on that scene. Way better. Rewrite.
Your once glorious masterpiece is still pretty good. It just needs some work, which you lovingly bestow. Taking parts out. Putting parts in. You may even add a chapter or two while deleting another.
Fast forward a lot.
Two years later…
Out of the blue, you decide to look over your story expecting to be pleased at what you remember only as a beautiful composition. The first sentence makes you tilt your head. With each sentence, your eyes widen in horror. At each passing paragraph, it becomes more painful. At first, you were just shifting uncomfortably, but now, you’re cringing. Before you can even finish, you’re lying on the ground thinking, what was that? That was bad. Very bad.
You find yourself wanting to crumple it up and hide it away. You want to delete it from the memory of anyone who ever read it. You are just so embarrassed of something that once made you swell with pride.
Why is that? What happened?
Well, it’s because you’re a much, MUCH better writer now than you are then. You have a better understanding of what the reader looks for and what he skips. You can make your writing flow better. You know what parts make sense and what parts are just fluff. You may have even developed the story to make it 10x better.
What I just described may have been a bit of an exaggeration (It wasn’t for me. Trust me.), but if you have a skill/talent/gift, it’s going to get better with time. It’s because you’re getting older, wiser, and gaining experience.
BUT there is a way to cheat this system.
I understand that writing isn’t the same as playing basketball or practicing to be on American Idol, but it can be compared to painting a masterpiece or composing a beautiful piece of music.
Yes, I know. Some people are just born with crazy talents. Did you know that people can be born athletic, too? I know a guy who can jump over six feet. Was he born with the ability to jump over six feet? Do you know of any newborns who can jump at all? No. If you say you do, you are a liar.
Mozart had skill. So did Beethoven and Picasso. Natural talent or not. They all got better with time.
How does this apply to you? The same rule that applied to them also applies to you.
Experience makes you better.
Yes, experience. I guess that means I don’t stand a chance in the world until I’m old and gray. Until then, I can’t compete with all the natural born talents like today’s bestselling authors.
How do ball players get better? What about musicians and singers? You can’t watch an NBA game and think, well those guys were just “born with that talent”. They only practice when they’re in the “playing mode”. They’re only good because they’re feeling “inspired” to play right now.
No. Just no.
How do they get that good? They practice.
How do you get better at writing? What’s the name of this blog?
P R A C T I C E W R I T I N G
When do professional athletes practice? When they feel like it? When they get inspired to?
They practice all the time. That includes whether they feel like it or not. Not only do most professional athletes practice EVERYDAY but most also practice MULTIPLE times a day.
It’s their life. Literally.
Writing might just be your hobby, and that’s perfectly fine. Just ten minutes of your day can make a major difference.
Let me explain. Remember when I said that experience makes you better?
I’m an artist. I go several months, maybe a year, without formally picking up a pencil and drawing a picture. At the end of these months, or year, I will be a better artist than before. How? Well, unless you live in a basement with no color, no books, no television, no internet (which I know you have if you’re reading this), then you are going to learn/see/experience something new in that amount of time.
Simply living gives you experience.
When you practice, you speed up getting experience. You cheat the system, as I like to say.
Let me give another basketball example, since it’s so comparable, don’t you think so? (I think so, too.)
Here you have an awesome ball player. I mean, he was just born with mad skills. He can handle that basketball like nobody’s business. He doesn’t even have to bother showing up to practice, and he’ll still start every game and play the entire time. Now, we’re going to put this “practically professional” high school player up against someone like Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan. What do you think is going to happen, especially if this youngster “doesn’t even have to bother with practicing”?
It’s going to be funny and maybe even a bit pathetic. That little fellow’s ego is going to get chewed up and spit out over a bridge into a class nine rapid river. There will never be any retrieving it.
He may be able to get by without practicing while he’s in high school. He may have to practice some in college, but if he’s to stand a chance in the big leagues, that boy is going to live in the gym.
The same with you. If you are going to stand a chance in the big leagues, you’d better eat, sleep, breathe “writing”.
Most of us are just satisfied with what we do, and that’s fine. The same is true with most athletes, musicians, and composers. Very few can be considered one of the “Greats”. These people literally live what they do.
I understand. It’s a little more difficult for writers because we’re not just throwing a ball through a hoop. We have to think about what we’re going to write, our characters, and the plot. We create worlds and people in our minds. We give them lives, goals, and purposes. It’s more than just putting words on paper.
Just as athletes experience “off days”, we experience “writer’s block”. How can we practice when we can’t even think of what to say next? We do what the athletes do. We suffer through. Maybe veer off the beaten path. Write about something other than your book.
Athletes pinpoint their weaknesses and focus on making them stronger, so strong that even the strengths of their foes can’t compete. We need to follow suit by finding what our weaknesses are and making them stronger. Is your weakness writing about fantasy because you can’t invent crazy names or abilities for your characters? Get online, find a picture of a fantasy character, and write a story about them. Describe them in minute detail. Are you bad for going into too great of detail with your writing? (I was bad for this) Choose a scene, and only give yourself 100 words to write it in. Yeah, you may have to leave some major things out, but it’ll be okay.
There are all kinds of ways you can practice your writing!
The point of this blog is to give you ideas on how you can practice writing.
Remember how I said only ten minutes of your day can make a difference? I don’t mean just ten minutes of your regular, novel writing. Do you think professional athletes only practice with their team? Of course not! They practice on their own time. Just like you need to.
Find your weaknesses. Get a time frame. Stray from the beaten path.
Until next time, my friends – practice, Practice, P R A C T I C E.