When the word “practice” comes up, I usually think of sitting at the piano at six in the morning while my mother got my sister out of bed. And my piano teacher reminding me that practice doesn’t make perfect–”perfect practice makes perfect.”
That makes me think of deliberate practice–choosing to practice the specific things you need to learn, to work on what challenges you.
In writing, “practice” sometimes seems to mean not what you do, but how you do it. In the Joan Wickersham interview I mentioned recently, practice was talked about in terms of ritual. Preparing to write–as in having a special pen or place. Ms. Wickersham mentioned a large cup of tea.
I have no practice of that kind. And that isn’t true. I free-write on the bus. I do my modified morning pages every morning–maybe not right when I wake up, but every morning. But that’s less of a how than a what–what I do.
And that’s how I’m thinking of practice: What I’m doing (deliberately). Yesterday I mentioned a new project. I’m writing a novel. I decided to take the NaNoWriMo process of 50,000 words in 30 days and do it in September instead of November. “Back to school” works better for me than “the holidays.” So I’m committing to the 50,000 (and giving myself a few extra days if needed, to make up for the time I’m at LiTFUSE). That breaks out to 1,666 words a day, and I’m up to 13,477.
I’ve tried to write this story two or three times before–but given this structure, plus the relentless theme, plus the idea expressed in that same Wickersham interview that sometimes the writing starts off badly (I give myself permission to write badly knowing that I’ll go back again and again to make it better). Add to the fact that last week someone asked me if I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said no–but woke up in the middle of the night and remembered that yes, I did know, and it was high time to get started on it.
This has become part of my practice. I don’t have a special time or place–I fit it in when and how I can (yesterday morning, on the sofa while the Seahawks were playing and then, when my battery ran out, upstairs in the Writing Studio). But I love big projects, and this fits the bill.
Tomorrow, another bus ride, and another attempt at a poem.
What’s in your practice? Do you think of what or how, or both?