August 3, 2011

Two Levels of Ability

Posted in Practice Writing, Stages tagged , at 1:00 pm by Rebecca Hein

Writing on demand rather than by inspiration usually produces a lower quality result. Yet is this a reason to wait for the Muse and write little or nothing between her visits?

Musicians probably have an easier time with these two levels of ability because it’s built into our experience. We practice daily, or as often as possible. We also perform. Practice is easy compared with performing; there’s no audience and comparatively little pressure. Performance, with its accompanying stage fright, plunges our normal ability down so far below what we’ve learned to expect from practicing that it feels like a different activity.

“What happened to my playing?” is the inexperienced performer’s lament, and this lasts until he or she adjusts, through many performances, to that inevitable comedown from sublime moments in the practice room.

But writers have no comparable culture to prepare us for two levels of ability. Therefore we’re disheartened when “demand” writing proves less lively or less imaginative than what we’re used to. Experience and persistence will overcome this discouragement, but to provide that experience you have to do enough writing on demand.



  1. One thing that gets me around the difficulty of writing on demand is researching a subject. I often find something unexpected that inspires my writing. The same was true with my synthesizers. Exploring their capabilities often fired up my creativity.

    • Rebecca Hein said,

      Yes, writing on demand is often just the way to better performance.

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