July 17, 2013

Recognizing the Trade-Off, Part One

Posted in music and writing, Revising tagged , , at 3:12 pm by Rebecca Hein

Often writers fiddle too long with their sentences, trying to purge them of mistakes or no-nos such as misused commas or too many adverbs. But this doesn’t always work.

Sooner or later, you notice that in improving one part of a sentence or paragraph, you create a problem somewhere else. Thus you trade one difficulty for another, and sometimes just have to decide between the two. If you don’t accept this reality, you end up with the feeling that you’re trying too hold too many ping-pong balls underwater.

One is always popping up, no matter what you do. The answer is not to grab at that one pesky ball and try to push it under again, but to work with the reality of the process.

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June 25, 2013

Why Practice? Part Three

Posted in freewriting, Practice Writing, writing techniques tagged , , , at 1:27 pm by Rebecca Hein

Ease of execution; smooth flow; producing a great first draft—these skills are possible with practice. Not the “practice” of polishing a piece for publication or of working through a series of early drafts, but practice writing.

Put words on paper, or type them. The content is irrelevant because your state of mind is the key. You have to know the intrinsic value of basic writing, without regard to quality, form, or content.

No musician would ever deny the need for practice, and writers shouldn’t either. What seems to be throwaway time—so tempting to skip so we can get on to our real work—is the foundation of our craft.

June 14, 2013

Why Practice? Part Two

Posted in freewriting, Practice Writing, writing techniques tagged , , , , at 4:26 pm by Rebecca Hein

In all my years of playing concerts, recitals, and even wedding receptions, my most memorable encounters with the audience have occurred after the performance.

“I wish I had your talent,” someone always sighs while shaking my hand. “I don’t know how you make it look so easy.”

I do. Years and years of persistent work. Yet in the minds of these wistful people, there was no mechanism. There was no daily battle to play better in tune, to feel the sway of the beat, or to achieve beautiful tone. Instead, there was a vague idea: “talent.”

The mechanics of practice are the most important component of your writing. That means daily writing, for practice only. Not for brilliance, not to polish a draft, just to put words on paper.

You want to dazzle readers, and especially editors and agents, with the mastery of your craft. So don’t handicap yourself by neglecting practice. If you do, it’ll take you just that much longer to reach your goals.

May 18, 2013

Why Practice? Part One

Posted in freewriting, Practice Writing, writing techniques tagged , , , , at 2:06 pm by Rebecca Hein

Is there a difference between freewriting and writing purely for practice? The former is something writers are exhorted to do, and the latter less frequently mentioned.

In freewriting you’re supposed to write whatever enters your head without editing or criticizing. Usually it’s for a set time. But why do it?

This question takes on meaning when we transfer the spirit of freewriting into the realm of practice writing. Why practice?

A simple question, with what should be an obvious answer, yet in several decades of cello playing, I’ve discovered that practicing is a vague concept in the minds of many people; without significance or value. If you’re a writer, and have this concept, it can be detrimental to your work.

January 11, 2013

Fun or Work? Part Two

Posted in music and writing, writing for fun tagged , at 10:33 am by Rebecca Hein

The best music teachers recognize that students have to be taught to love music from the very beginning, at the same time they’re learning proper technique. Although these methods succeed in varying degrees, the emphasis is still on getting things right.

Therein lies the problem in both music and writing. We have to do a good job, yet the need for correctness can spoil our pleasure in the activity.

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