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.

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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.

November 7, 2012

No Artifice, Part One

Posted in Creativity, self-consciousness tagged , , at 1:17 pm by Rebecca Hein

In cello playing, the best results are almost always obtained through a complete lack of control. This assumes that you’ve practiced your pieces to perfection so that your reflexes, when set free, will perform with no restrictions, not even the effort to get the notes right.

Practicing also goes better when you let your muscles work with as little interference as possible from your conscious mind. Thus you’ve created the conditions for natural motions, unimpeded by artifice.

August 29, 2012

Slumps, Part Two

Posted in slumps in writing tagged , , at 2:40 pm by Rebecca Hein

If we could set up our writing lives for regular practice and performance, as musicians do, our slumps might have less power to stop us. Habits that engage us with our own skill or with readers can tide us through difficult times, making the difference between advancing slowly and stopping.

Practicing is one of the most valuable activities of all, precisely because it keeps us going. Expecting nothing except to produce words—any words—we can still write. Even if we’ve lost all sense of direction, or our confidence has dwindled to nothing, if we continue to practice, we at least set ourselves up for a return of motivation and the desire to go on.

May 30, 2012

The Dual Nature of Performance, Part Four

Posted in performance, Practice Writing, self-consciousness tagged at 2:30 pm by Rebecca Hein

Seasoned musicians know that even the most thorough practicing can’t prepare them for the spontaneity of a performance. This is both good and bad, of course, because all your preparations insure you as much as possible against the accidents that can occur in front of an audience. Yet you want an element of unpredictability or your performance will be dull.

In writing, when we know that an editor or agent will be reading our work, we freeze. Yet with enough practice at writing in this self-conscious state, we learn that the fun of storytelling and ideas can take over and even produce some of our best work precisely because we know somebody will be “listening.”

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