September 29, 2010

Success in Writing

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

If one person likes your writing, will two people want it? If two readers love your ideas and your style, will others? Yes. I’ve seen this happen in my own life, therefore you can achieve it too.

What’s required? I discovered this in the mid-1980s when I played a faculty cello recital at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. After the performance, members of the audience were lining up to shake my hand, and one person said to me, “There are two kinds of recitals: the kind where you’re always glancing at your watch. Then there’s the other kind: when you don’t want it to end. Yours was the second kind.”

My secret? Hard work. Years of practice, and not just any practicing: an intelligent approach which has made all the difference.

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September 22, 2010

Creativity Rules

Posted in Creativity tagged , at 9:33 am by Rebecca Hein

The lives of musicians are filled with specific instructions: “Play in tune.” “Your tone needs to be more beautiful.” “Don’t rush.” “Don’t drag.” Writers are plagued with the same mosquito-cloud of edicts about language, style, punctuation, and plot.

This advice is intended to help us improve, so why does it so often freeze us? Because creativity responds to the feel of our work, not to rules. Absorption in the moment is the key: in the glorious experience of music-making or storytelling we forget details and then they arrange themselves.

September 15, 2010

Practice and First Drafts

Posted in First Drafts, Practice Writing tagged , , at 9:30 am by Rebecca Hein

Last week I suggested that you increase your practice writing (see previous posts about practice writing) and decrease your “real writing.” How did it go?

I’ve been doing this all year, especially in the past few weeks. Here’s my report: practice writing is restful. I can write about anything or nothing, released from the prison of my own high standards. I can scamper off into unknown territory, for pure fun, with no thought of order, coherence, or quality.

Try it; you won’t be sorry. If your experience is like mine, you’ll find even your first drafts flowing more easily, not just in language, but also in imagery and new ideas.

September 7, 2010

The Facts About Practicing

Posted in Practice Writing tagged , at 1:06 pm by Rebecca Hein

In music, especially at the beginning, the ratio of practice to performance is 99:1 or higher. This fact is part of our tradition, and so obvious in the difference between a skilled performer and a less advanced student that we never question it.

As writers, we are much less conscious of this same reality. Instead we expect a performance-level standard of ourselves years before we’ve practiced enough.

Review my previous posts on practice writing, then set yourself this modest goal: this week only, increase your practice time and decrease your “real writing” time until you’ve reached a ratio of 50:50 or better. If you detect a change, let me know.

September 1, 2010

Discovering the Wild Card

Posted in Improvisation tagged at 9:45 am by Rebecca Hein

The Wild Card is that mysterious force in writing that upsets all your efforts just when you think you know what to do. There’s no fighting this invisible opponent; instead you have to join with it. Only then can you expect it to work in your favor.

The fictional character that takes over your story; the unexpected new structure for your essay; the struggle to flesh out an idea that begins clearly yet refuses to travel from thought to print; these are a few of the Wild Card’s many faces.