Tag Archives: practice

Brilliant Advice for any Creative Endeavor

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I have a board on Pinterest for Writing stuff. It is fairly empty, because I don’t find a whole lot of pictures that really convey good writing advice. Maybe I am not looking in the right places though, because the pin above is one of the greatest pieces of advice I have ever seen.

This gets exactly at my problem with fiction writing for sure. I write stuff, I re-read it, maybe I even do some editing and re-read again, and then I begin to despair. My stuff is so bad! Objectively, I know it isn’t totally terrible, but it certainly isn’t good. I also know that continuing to work and practice and learn the craft is the only way to get any better, but it is hard to keep that in mind when I am feeling that despair. It begins to feel like the time and effort is pointless.

The crazy thing is, I am not like this with other things. When I started playing racquetball, I was terrible. I am significantly better now, but since I was so terrible to begin with, I am still pretty bad at it. This does not diminish my enjoyment of the game in any way. I am getting exercise and learning how to do better, it is a really fun game, and that is enough.

In fact, I make it a practice to learn new things often, in part just to demonstrate this concept to my kids (and incidentally to myself). I want my kids to see me doing something I am no good at and then see me keep working on it until I get better. Kids sometimes think that things should be easy when they see their parents and other adults doing things relatively easily all the time. They weren’t around when we were making mistakes and learning, so they don’t realize how much work went into those accomplishments. My kids are pretty smart, too, which almost makes it worse–there are many school activities that come easily to them, so when things are difficult it is even more uncomfortable for them, and they sometimes want to give up quickly.

When things are hard for them, I always tell them there is only one way to get better–keep trying. I also remind them that it is not surprising that they aren’t very good at something they just started doing. And, I encourage them to continue adding difficulty when they master a level of any given activity. I am encouraging and supportive. Most of the time, when I am learning new things myself, I model the behavior I would like to see them adopt–I don’t get upset, I look at what I did wrong and how I can make improvements, and I keep going.

I need to start applying this to fiction writing, which is something I have always wanted to do, since I was very young–practically before I could actually write at all. I have written about reframing my perspective on ongoing tasks here before (Practice, Learning to Love the Process), but I need to make a concerted effort to apply it in this area. If I keep the quote above in mind, I can then apply the skills of practicing without a huge attachment to the end result, and focus on incremental improvement. I am thinking about printing it out, framing it, and placing it on my desk for a constant reminder.

Now I just need to set up some goals, make this kind of writing a habit, and start churning out that work. Of course, for the work to be meaningful, I need to make sure I am editing and working on improvement, not just putting words on a page, but that is not something I have trouble doing. The initial words on the page, or writing more than a page or so at a time is what is hard. So, I think I need to start with just getting work done, and not worry yet about volume. If I am writing fiction at all, it is success. After a while of this, I will surely gain confidence and be able to increase this goal.

Practice

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I have recently taken up crocheting again. I have taken up crocheting many times throughout my adult life, but never gotten very far, because I thought I should start by making something, and I didn’t like the way my projects looked. This time, I am trying a different approach. I am just practicing.

In my perfectionism, I have always thought I needed to be making something specific, and it needed to be beautiful. Of course, since I was new at it, my stitches were not beautiful. I mean, some of them were, but overall, I made very uneven efforts. After a few days of this, I would look at my work, think, “ No one will ever want to wear this scarf*!”, and give up again. This time, I am just practicing stitches. Who cares if they look bad or uneven? It’s just practice.

I don’t just have this problem with crocheting, either. I have it with nearly everything I do. I know that the only way to get better at anything is to keep doing it, over and over again, looking at the results and trying to improve. But I don’t like the practicing part. I want to jump right to the end, where (for instance), my house is perfectly organized, I make beautiful sweaters and afghans, and my writing is brilliant.

I have been working on the writing thing, too, posting both here and at gaminangels.com more often, but I want to get an even better routine. To challenge myself, I am signing up for National Blog Posting Month, or NaBloPoMo. This is going to be a stretch for me, as I don’t really have a daily writing routine, but that is the point of this exercise.

Creating a hard and fast schedule of post topics doesn’t really work well for me, but I do have some general guidelines I want to follow:

  • I do want to participate in Menu Plan Mondays at OrgJunkie–I’ve developed a good menu planning routine, and I want to keep that going
  • Some days, when I spend a lot of time working on a post for gaming angels, I will go ahead and post a quick pointer here for all the writing I am actually doing over there
  • Whenever I can, I am going to work ahead and schedule my posts rather than sitting here at the computer, staring at a blank screen with nothing to say

Obviously, these rules leave a lot of leeway, so who knows what we’ll see here! I will try to be interesting, but I could be writing about any number of topics, from current events to books to science fiction to family stories. I am interested to see what I want to write about when I am forced to do it regularly.

As for my crocheting, I will eventually move on to a project, probably another scarf, but I am working hard to enjoy the process. It is fun to look at my progress, where I have improved and what I still need to work on. The time I spend working on the stitches is very relaxing for me, and I am getting better.

* Yes, it was always a scarf, what else is so easy to start with? I suppose pot holders, but scarves provide more practice time, and I pictured myself wearing them out in public, with everyone asking me where I got that beautiful scarf. Then I would modestly admit that I made it myself and they would be amazed. Yeah, perfectionism.