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.



  1. I love all your posts on this blog, Becky, but this one in particular struck me as a revelation — why should I be surprised if my writing requires many rewritings before I’m satisfied with it? (Even this short comment required a fair number of corrections.) Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us!

    • Rebecca Hein said,

      John: Thanks for this comment. Sure enough, why should we be surprised if our first twenty short stories aren’t professional-level? If we tackled the reality of practice writing directly, rather than hoping that our intermediate-level efforts will somehow bypass the normal phases of skill development, we could then save our emotional energy for what it’s really for: writing.

  2. Are we not practicing writing when we write letters, tweet, and blog? We use composition techniques as well as grammer and spelling when we do these things. Additionally, Twitter’s 140 character limit and Facebook’s 420 character restriction also encourage brevity. Even e-mail encourages, or at least it should encourage, people to use their writing skills. With businesses now using this form of correspondence in the way they once used paper memos and letters, people are unconsciously using writing skills. After all, nobody wants to receive a poorly-worded and badly spelled letter. Musicians don’t carry around their instruments all day and communicate with them but we writers do. It may not be creative or poetic but I find myself writing and editing letters often.

    • Rebecca Hein said,

      Yes, almost any kind of writing gives us practice in putting words together. So you may not feel the need to dedicate special time to practice writing. Yet how often do we sit down to write something with no thought of coherence, order, or quality, but instead for the pure experience of flow? This is what I mean by practice writing.

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