I have found a flaw in my writing.
More specifically, I have found a flaw in my writing practice. It is found in the word ‘practice’ because that is the specific aspect that I am NOT doing.
I watch artists Kathleen Jennings (@tanaudel), Terry Whidborne (@Tezzabold) and Eric Orchard (@Inkybat), post their samples and sketches on twitter, or works in progress. I love seeing the behind the scenes look at their art.
But it made me realise what I DON’T do. I don’t practice my writing. I don’t experiment with ideas, words, sentences, phrases, paragraphs, characters.
I am NOT practicing.
You’ll have to excuse this hack for a moment because he learned something that you all probably already know. I’m hearing the chorus of, “Well, d’uh!” resonate, accompanied by a slow clap.
I expect to turn up to the page of a current work in progress and produce words of reasonable quality in the initial drafts before tidying them up in revisions.
I’m surprised I didn’t cotton on to this earlier; as a drummer, practice is essential to becoming proficient (but then I don’t practice nearly enough in this area either). I’m a slow learner.
Some might argue that the act of writing the story, the initial phases of writing and editing is practice, and I would agree. However working on a specific project means your focus is on the established parameters. Practice for practice sake means you can attempt new perspectives or styles without the constraint of an existing work.
So, what can I do to improve? Here are a couple of practice strategies.
1. Morning Pages
Morning pages, the downloading of the mental jumble, is a good way to seek clarity and I know of authors who use it to find their focus and clarity before returning to their current WIP.
Write out a passage from your favourite author. See how and why it works on the page.
Another is to create sketches, like an artist practicing a certain pose or facial feature. Tumblr is funny for that; seeing artists strike odd poses for reference.
I want to take an idea from my notebook, or a line or poetry and write, free-association, or timed, or thematic, or stylistic.
And then I will leave it. Words without context. Sentences without a plot. Characters without a complication. They will be the equivalent of an artist’s sketches, the woodcarvings of the carpenter, the drills of the athlete, the rudiments and scales of the musician.
All methods have validity. You need to work out what helps your own writing.
I am going to try Number 3 for a while, in the spare minutes here and there in the day and see how it goes. I will let you know how it goes.
What do you do for practice?