“Wrong, Do it again!”
“If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding. How can you
have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?”
(Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2-Pink Floyd)
Before any of my compadres make any kind of sarcastic comment about my age or how they are surprised I might actually know who Pink Floyd is, yes, I am actually old enough to know who Pink Floyd is AND what that song is about. So there.
The next question is what the blazes does that have to do with writing? Thank you for asking. I will explain. Basically, it’s the “how can you have if you don’t” part that I’m focusing on in relation to practicing. We’ve all heard the adage “practice makes perfect”. Except that it doesn’t. Not really. Even if you practice something a hundred times a day, you still will not be perfect. But you will be better at whatever it is you are trying to do. With writing, practicing is a must. How can you become a better writer if you don’t bleed ink? (Bleed ink is my new catch phrase-let’s make it a thing.)
No one starts out being a great writer. All of us have terrible first projects. Oh please, yes, you do. Just admit it. Your very first attempts at writing sucked. I know mine did. I have some really bad teenage angst poems. However, I kept writing, and as I matured so did my poetry. I have some terrible first draft stories as well. But I kept writing and practicing. I’m still practicing. Every day. I call it blogging but it’s pretty good practice. And I’m getting better at it. I’m learning and putting brains into my writing muscles.
OK, pop quiz. True or False-Benjamin Franklin copied articles from a paper he enjoyed called the Spectator.
True. In his autobiography he stated that he would buy copies of the Spectator and thought the articles in it well-written and he wanted to imitate them. So, he’d read the articles and make notes. Then he’d put them away for a short while. During that time he’d go back and try to rewrite the articles exactly as he’d read them using whatever words came to mind. Then he’d go back to the paper and see how close he’d gotten. He kept it up until he got it right or had something he thought was better in his own words.
Now, I’m not telling you that you should do the same. Although, copying from great writers can show you things. Your brain will pick up on the clues the writing leaves you. Like a trail of bread crumbs. I am telling you that he practiced this technique until he was satisfied. But should you stop there?
While I was online I looked up quotes about practice and this one stood out:
“Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.”
I like that. It goes back to my statement that practice doesn’t make you perfect. Because, in my opinion, perfection is based soley on one’s perception. What I think is perfect is not the same as someone else’s idea. The best we can do is keep going until we get it right. But “right” according to whom? My “right” or your’s? The one thing I think we can agree on is to do it until you can’t get it wrong. And if you aren’t practicing, then you are getting it wrong.
Writing takes a lot of effort. There is a lot of work involved and, despite what muggles (non-writing folk) think, it is h-a-r-d. You’ll spend 3/4 of your time trying to write and the rest actually writing. The best way to change that is to practice. Have I made my point yet?
One of the best ways I’ve found of practicing isn’t just the blogging. CJ told you last Wednesday that she and I are doing challenges for the month of April. She’s doing Blogging A to Z and I am doing both Blogging A to Z and NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month). The Blogging Challenge is to blog every day in April (except Sundays) using a letter of the alphabet each day. The NaPoWriMo Challenge is to write a poem every day for thirty days. It has an optional prompt we can use or we can do our own thing as long as it’s a poem. And let me tell you…I’ve already been hit twice with a couple of prompts (because I like doing the prompts) that made me want to cringe. I didn’t ignore the prompts though. I completed them. And I’m glad I did. It was really good practice.
There are also online prompts that you can use to help get you started, or you can do stream-of-consciousness writing. What matters is that you practice and you keep doing it. Find some way of sitting your butt in a chair every day and write. Even if it’s just the grocery list.
Now, get out there and let me see you bleed ink!