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.

July 11, 2012

Evaluating Your Own Work, Part Two

Posted in First Drafts, organizing your writing, self-evaluation tagged , , at 10:11 am by Rebecca Hein

The multiple distractions of evaluating our own writing help to explain why this is such a difficult job. Small mistakes jump out at us; then we have to stop and fix them or make a note to come back later. Larger problems of structure and writing style also emerge, bothering us with the indecision of “Do I try to fix this now, or continue reading?”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat down with a chapter or a whole section of a current manuscript, planning to read it all the way through to try to get a sense of the whole, then being sidetracked by all the small yet important problems I encounter.

June 13, 2012

Perfect Moments, Part Two

Posted in Creativity, freewriting, Peak Experiences, writing techniques tagged , , , , at 4:43 pm by Rebecca Hein

If our best work feels like a gift from above and therefore not something we can just grab, how do we achieve it? What I’ve learned from cello playing has taught me the answer.

In a series of wonderful, serendipitous practice sessions, I expected nothing. Making no attempt to recapture the best achievements of the previous day, I simply launched into my warm-ups and the beautiful, easy folk songs that deliver pure enjoyment.

For writers this is part of the answer. Give yourself time for fun, easy writing. Too many hours spent struggling with plot, character, or scene will bog you down.

Instead, on a daily basis, write letters to yourself. Or rant about your frustrations. Anything to get the words moving, after which you can expect things to begin to sparkle.

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