June 23, 2010

Save Time with Practice Writing

Posted in Practice Writing tagged , , at 9:45 am by Rebecca Hein

I began practice writing a number of months ago, and have been delighted to discover how much time it saves. In the years before I established this habit, my writing routine was difficult: I labored to produce the best work I could, and waded through so many drafts that I lost count.

All that effort was necessary because I wanted my pieces to be as organized as possible. My rewrites helped me achieve this order.

But my ideas, in raw form, never arrive in proper sequence. Wild disarray is my style, and in practice writing I indulge this tendency to the full.

You will recall from previous posts that practice writing is free, unedited, and private. Nobody, including you, gets to criticize these exercises or even evaluate them. The goal is flow.

So in my practicing, I choose a topic or section from a piece I’m having trouble with. For twenty to thirty minutes I wander through the problem, paying no attention to order, coherence, or quality. After several days I begin to sense my readiness to tackle the piece directly, and then I discover how easy it is to arrange my ideas.

The right words and phrases tumble out of me with nearly the same freedom that characterizes practice. I craft a good revision in half the usual time or, if I’ve chosen to practice extensively on a piece before I try to compose it at all, I generate a first draft that is nearly usable.

The key is freedom and following your own quirks first. Permit this primary urge its full expression and wait for what happens next.

Next: Varieties of Practicing.



  1. Rhonda Partain said,

    I have taken so many college classes that stress cohesiveness. paragraphs start with a topic sentence and clear statements support that topic follow. The idea of free flow is like having the rules removed. It is ok if I can think of supporting ideas first and then clearly define my thesis or topic. The ideas need not be clearly defined at first. I can start with a partial thought. I think that being able to write freely is a bit scary. I for one would feel I must be doing something wrong. Every writing asignment has so many rules that must be followed. Creativity is not encouraged. Papers have the same form, and style differing only in the topic covered. I will have to give this practice writing a try. Perhaps I will be less stressed when I next have a term paper due.

    • Rebecca Hein said,

      Yes, having the rules removed can be scary, or at least suspenseful, as in “but if I forsake all structure, what will happen next?” But this is the essence of creativity, and while practice writing may not remove the stress of term papers, it will help with poems, stories, and essays.

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