You Mean, You Have to Practice?

“A thousand books on tennis won’t improve your serve, but a thousand serves will.”
~ Rick DeMarinis, from an excerpt of his article printed in The Writer, November 1985, and reprinted in the November 2010 issue.

~

As I sat in a hallway at work the other day, I overheard someone practicing the tuba. The music climbed the scale with perfect tone but then squealed and tumbled into low vibrations, like the sounds of a diesel truck unwilling to start. I flashed back to a recent conversation with my son.

“Mommy,” he said, “I want to play the trumpet.”

“That’s excellent!” I cheered. Then, I rattled off stipulations and requirements that he ignored until he heard the word “lessons.”

“No, mom. I don’t want to take lessons. I just want to play the trumpet.”

Oh.

Right.

My son and I are not so different in that way.

“I just want to write a novel.” How many times have I said that before?

In the beginning, I didn’t have time for books about the craft or a writing class or advice about failed first novels.

“I just want to write,” I repeated.

But, writing – like tennis or trumpet playing or…anything, really – is rarely done well the first time or the first hundred times. To hone my writing skills, I needed diligence, a willingness to learn, and a daily commitment.

And, I needed to practice.

I understand that now, so I practice my writing in several ways.

1. Morning pages. Every day I write one to three pages — of rants, self-doubts, or goals for the day. Often, I start off by reminding myself what day of the week it is, a challenge in itself sometimes. Occasionally, I record a milestone, like a draft complete or a short story’s Honorable Mention.

2. Letters to my best friend. Inspired by Lynn at The Letter Jar, who is on a mission to compose 365 letters in 365 days, I began writing letters to a dear friend with two small children. Phone calls are near to impossible when you have small kids at home. Besides, a hand-written letter is a treasure after a long day of laundry, meals, and redirection. While it’s a different kind of writing, it draws out my creative side just the same and often leads to story-telling. Plus, I reconnect with my dear friend in an old, and more intimate, way.

3. Writing exercises. Every other Wednesday, I face a strict deadline to post a story, by midnight, based on a word prompt. While the deadline is self-imposed, I have good reasons why I don’t blow it off: 1) I am motivated to write something new, 2) I stretch my writer’s mind by forcing myself to write outside of the box (a psychopomp might stand at your death bed wearing a hooded cloak or he might just show up in a Mets cap), and 3) each attempt at the exercise reinforces my commitment to writing.

4. Submitting. I’m not talking about submitting to my inner editor or the lackadaisical attitude of my muse some days. I mean, that whenever and wherever I can, I submit a completed story. I’m a firm believer that there’s much to be gained in the practice of writing cover letters, following submission guidelines, and crafting the ever-painful three sentence bio.

5. Reading. Nowadays, on top of novels and short story collections, I do read books and magazines on and about writing. Then, I translate my experience as a reader into my perspective as a writer, by writing a post about an inspiring article or interviewing a guest author.

6. Writing workshops and Author Readings. Workshops help me grow as a writer in the areas of craft and in giving and receiving feedback (which complements all lessons learned about writing). Also, when I attend an Author Reading, I learn the art of not sweating buckets or passing out while standing at a podium, in front of a roomful of peers, reading your story.

(Lordy.)

What kinds of exercises help you practice your writing?

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146 responses to “You Mean, You Have to Practice?

  1. I definitely follow 3-6. I also practice “riff” writing (described to me as similar to a musical riff, and similar to writing exercises). If I find a passage that feels weak, dull etc. I take that line, open a fresh document and over-write for a few pages, peppering the piece with adjectives, over-wrought description, melodrama, etc. Usually a few lines will emerge from that which enhances the original line that was mostly likely leaning toward “telling” or hadn’t gone deep enough into the scene.

    I assume that honorable mention is now in your 3-sentence bio??! πŸ™‚

    • Cathryn, I love that technique, and the name “riff.” I’ll have to try that sometime. And, no, hadn’t put the Honorable Mention in my bio yet. Thanks for that reminder! πŸ™‚

  2. “Practicing” your writing absolutely improves your craft, just like anything else. That’s why I have a blog. I may write about stupid shit, but it helps to keep the ole noggin’ limber.

  3. Writing workshops sounds interesting. I think what works for me is constant editing and proofing. As much as a I don’t like to do it, I rarely get it right the first time. Great post!

  4. I came by this via Freshly Pressed, but I think I’ll subscribe.

    BTW, I think you’re onto something by discussing the merits of practice. I’m pretty confident that there’s an urge to be an instant expert at everything that’s becoming more common. At least, it is becoming more common in me. I’m not sure that I can fight it, but I’m practicing.

    • Thanks for stopping by and for your potential subscription πŸ™‚

      The urge to be in instant expert…I hate the urge, but know it well. I would really like to just play the piano someday.

      Love your blog title and description, btw. Happy upcoming anniversary!

  5. What a great reminder to practice the craft of writing. I have always enjoyed writing yet started a blog to compliment my business. However, I’ve found I LOVE it and that I have so much to learn. I just recently began to read about writing and consider ways I can improve and grow as a writer. I’ve read so much on here about the hobbyist writer versus the professional writer. For now I’m the first but hope some day to be the second. I will definitely take your suggestions to heart — love the letter writing idea! Congrats, by the way, on Freshly Pressed. I’m glad it led me to your blog.
    Amy

  6. This is good advice…practive makes perfect…I am trying to learn spanish and i have always said…I just want to speak it really well. Now I am finally doing Rosetta Stone every single day and it has helped a lot. The hard part is actually doing something you want to do…life is crazy like that

    http://www.runtobefit.wordpress.com

  7. Unfortunately, I’ve never been a fan of ‘practising’ anything. In fact, it was my downfall in the musical-instrumental part of my life.
    To me, writing’s different. I write when the mood strikes me. And more often than not (and I hate blowing my own trumpet, pun intended), the stories turn out awesome. Of course, deadlines help.
    Erm, I have no idea what my intention was when I began to type this; I suppose I’m congratulating you in a way?

  8. I started blogging (3 years ago) as a sort of writing exercise. Even when I didn’t have a story I was working on, I had my blog to keep me in practice. My blog writing is completely different from my fiction writing, so it is a great outlet. I didn’t used to have a regular schedule for my blog posts, but lately I’ve adopted a Mon-Wed-Fri schedule and it keeps me disciplined. None of my readers may notice if I miss a post, but I will know and that’s all that matters.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    • Amy,

      I think you’ve hit on a great point as well – that we have to be our own boss when it comes to the work. I’ve experienced the same feeling you have before: no one will notice so much if I don’t post on a Wednesday, but I don’t want to deal with the wrath of my muse, who often disguises herself as self-induced guilt.

      Thanks for your comment πŸ™‚

  9. Hello Christi,

    Those are great steps (rituals) to develop technique. However, a part of – but separate from – writing technique is imagination, which also requires practice to manage and produce complex stories and content. Consider locus where on one end people are lost in their daydreams and on the other are people who have no imagination at all. It is my experience that I stop writing, not because my technique is bad, but because I lose control of my imagination… it either becomes too powerful in which I cannot focus on writing and I end up simply pacing (daydreaming without structure) or it is not present at all and none of the words I type have any value. Do you have any rituals that build stories and help manage your imagination or is all your writing simple reaction?

    Have a nice day
    Craig

    • Craig,

      That’s a great question. I suppose much of my writing builds from some seed of imagination – a seed that comes from a conversation overheard or an image seen. Some might call that a reaction, but I prefer to see it as developing an idea. I do try to recharge my creativity – which I think is a way to manage my imagination – by taking myself out on an Artist’s date now and then. Julia Cameron talks about artist’s dates in her book, An Artist’s Way, and suggests that we need those times free from writing – or painting or whatever your passion – simply to feed our creative selves.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment!

      • Hello Christi,

        It took me a long time to figure this out… far too long for me to be proud of it. But from my perspective, the way I understand the same thing – what I think you are saying, is that writing is only one part of my thought process (a very small part for me)… and the artistic life is letting myself live out my thought process.

        Have a nice day.
        Craig

  10. Very interesting post. I’m with your son on having very little patience or discipline for practicing! The funny thing about writing is, I’ve never thought of it as something I have to practice, I just think of it as something I enjoy doing, but I end up doing it a lot more than I’ve ever “practiced” anything. If I had thought of the clarinet this way, I might be in the symphony by now! πŸ˜‰

  11. Somebody once told me that to be a writer you have to write. Simple enough advice, but he turned out to be right.

    Writing takes discipline, you need to get into the habit of sitting down and writing no matter what’s going on. If you stop writing you stop being a writer. And the more you do something the better you get at it.

    Excellence is not a singular act, but a habit. You are what you repeatedly do.

    David

  12. Wow, this is great inspiration! I was just thinking of slowing down my blog (that is, not posting as often), but it is a great writing exercise, and your post has me rethinking that. With limited time I can’t do everything you suggest, but what I took from this post is that I do need to practice my writing and make it a priority. Thank you!

  13. Pingback: You Mean, You Have to Practice? | Writing Under Pressure « Free Espresso Friday

  14. This is a wonderful post! I took so much good information away from this : ) I’m pretty new to this blogging thing, and before I started blogging I tended toward being a shy person. But I’ve found that not only is it a good discipline to hone my writing skills because it naturally makes me work my brain muscle for story telling–suddenly in my personal life I’m finding that I have so much to talk about and so many neat ideas to convey to people that I have no time to be shy!

    Writing truly is therapuetic : )

    Thank you for your wonderful insights. I feel like I should take notes! That’s when you KNOW that you have a good post πŸ˜‰

    XOXO

  15. I loved the quote about tennis…as a competitive tennis player and writer, nothing could be more true. Years and years of book journaling have served me well.

  16. What wonderful advice! I never thought of “practicing” my writing before, but it’s a good place to start.

  17. Virginia Woolf made herself write 250 words a day – no matter what – but then she walked into the ocean with rocks in her pocket. Writing comes with practice – true – but it takes talent too. Maybe sometimes it just takes a little longer to discover if it’s there.

  18. Hello Christi,

    I enjoyed reading your writing! To practice my writing I just write and pay extra attention to all the little details: go for quality, add an illustrative picture, make sure the piece is easily readable, is not too long and accentuate the important parts or keywords.

    Kind regards,
    Mark

    • Crystal, Thanks for stopping by again. Yes. Blog. Numero…uh, oh, just forgot the Spanish word for number seven. Better start practicing that, too, if I plan on trying to be witty in another language…. πŸ™‚

  19. Very helpful post with a lot of good comments. Thank you πŸ™‚

  20. Blogging and journaling are the two things I do to help keep my writing muscles toned, even if the stories I write are entirely different than the exercises. Just forming words onto the screen, especially when they go down kicking and screaming, helps.

  21. I love this list…especially writing to your best friend. What a treasure to have that at the end of a long day!

    I definitely read. My blog helps keep my writing and writing voice sharp. I think submitting is the hardest for me because up until the rejections start to roll in, I’m convinced my stuff is good. πŸ™‚

    This is a very simple but increadibly useful post. Thank you so much for putting it out there for all of us who are hoping to get better at what we love.

    • Thanks for stopping by again, Kate. I agree, submitting and rejection are too of the hardest parts of writing. But, once in a while something crazy happens, like you get Freshly Pressed when you least expect it or one of your stories gets noticed. It happens. Keep on writing, right?

  22. Nice post…good lessons for an amateur like me. πŸ™‚

    i was earlier bogged down at the thought writing..may be fear of not being good. Then a friend advised me on blogging. i started doing since couple of days……now i am slowly loving it….i think its the practice y i am gaining the confidence.

  23. This post was great timing for me! I’m a newbie to it all and reading this, seeing that people who are writers also need to practice, was very encouraging. Makes me think I can do it! Thanks πŸ™‚

  24. Step 4 is the hard part! I’ve recently entered into a “pact” with one of my best friends where we’re each going to swap a completed short story by the end of November. Of course I’ll have to cut back on my serial dating to make that happen πŸ™‚ http://www.katrichterwrites.wordpress.com

  25. People do not realize that writing is a skill. Like everything else, it takes repetition and practice to get better. Playing around with phrases is the best way to make yourself get better. Great post, great reminder.

  26. Hi, I hear what you’re saying. Just recently, while sending out the same old humdrum queries, I had a revelation. I’ve always been an A student in the writing arena, and yet, writing queries and being rejected, has shown me something more valuable than practicing and honing. Being my original self, the one who’s aced every writing class straight throught four years of college, was missing while following all the agents’ guidelines. And then it hit me, and I made a decision–just today, in fact. I will be me. I will be my original, quirky self, and I will write the way my heart and mind tell me to, and I will send out queries with the same passion that I had through all my years of writing. Getting too caught up in the technical end of writing, drains the originality right out of you. Practice can only make perfect when you’re true to your own style.
    Great blog, btw πŸ™‚

  27. I literally spent years writing, loving writing, and having no opportunity for training. But, my employment provided me lots of writing development. I am learning more as I read the blogs of writers like you, my dear Christi. Blessings…

  28. This is a great post. Writing produces better writing. Painting produces better painting. And so on. The best artists of any field never stop practicing, never stop learning. When my co-authors and I hear people say “Oh, I can’t write” or “But I have nothing to say” I answer “You can write. And you have something to say.” And we’ve developed a workshop that proves it to people.

  29. Excellent post. Everytime some complains about practice though, I can’t help but hear the voice of Alan Iverson saying: “Practice? Practice?”

  30. An excellent post! It is refreshing to find someone else “practicing” the craft as well. With the way so many people seem to take short cuts these days and just expect to get published or self-publish their work your post actually gave me renewed hope. Thank you for posting it. I do pretty much the same and also blog as my way of keeping the gray muscle in even more practice. Good luck! Keep practicing/writing and can’t wait to see you on the shelves!

  31. Judging by the fluency of your blog you’re doing a lot of things right.(Every other Wednesday?? Do you by any chance align your magazines exactly with the edge of the coffee table?) Let’s see some stories.

    • πŸ™‚ Martin, thanks for the laugh. I do not line them all up exactly with the edge of the table. In fact, I purposefully slant them in opposing directions.

      So there.
      *clears throat*
      How ’bout that?
      *Looks over shoulder for OCD police*

  32. Practicing is a skill set that we need for EVERY life topic. I enjoyed the quote, which captured my attention, as well as the responses πŸ™‚

  33. I really enjoyed this. Great tips. I find it especially hard to get motivated just by looking ahead at the process… I keep reminding myself to keep my head down and go. I’m definitely adding this to my blog roll!

    Josh Musser
    http://joshmusser.wordpress.com/

  34. Loved your blog and it reminded me of what it took to hone my skills to sing and how I don’t alway apply the same discipline elsewhere. It takes talent plus toil. Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to get really good at something, so just need to keep pluggin away. I will now subscribe to your blog – thank you for the inspiration to toil.

  35. Pingback: You Mean, You Have to Practice? (via Writing Under Pressure) « Philadelphia Stories Weblog

  36. So true! Writing failures teach us valuable lessons-but we need to be willing to fail and grow-rather than despair or become defensive.

  37. I know the feeling of wanting to be good without the work . . . and practicing never seems to get easier, or at least it didn’t for me as a classical guitar major at IU for a year and a half. The hours and hours or practicing were part of what led me away from music and towards English. I hadn’t done creative writing in years, though writing poetry used to be a huge part of my life. That’s why I started my blog this past June–to get back in. Posting daily is so good for me. Not always easy, but discipline is so important. Thanks for the food for thought.

  38. Great post! I too had to learn about the importance of practice as a writer. As an editor, I write hundreds (no really, nearly a thousand) emails a month. My email writing is clear, very concise and… boring. It wasn’t until I started doing what you call “morning pages” that I was able to get in touch with my creative voice.

    Best of luck with your writing!

  39. It never fails to impress me–I mean that there are so many of us out here, writers who ache to write and let too much time slip past with nary a word written. Just the ache. Thanks for providing all the tips, inspiration, motivation, and community. Nice to read the comments too. (Lordy!)
    http://bit.ly/b5dU8k

  40. Great post and great blog. Looking forward to reading and being inspired. Thanks for all the great ideas about writing. I am just getting started, at last.

  41. Congratulations on being featured on Freshly Pressed!
    Thanks for reminding us that we need to practice anything when we want to improve.

  42. I practice writing by commenting on blog posts about practicing writing. Ooh, that made me dizzy, kind of like looking into a mirror held up in front of another mirror and seeing yourself get smaller and smaller off into infinity.
    All writing is a reflection of the author. Perhaps practice is how you choose to keep your mirror clean, Christi; capture your clarity. I prefer to break the mirror and see what happens. Jagged edges create tension and a seven year stretch of bad luck could be a dynamic plot engine. Hey, maybe … I feel some “practice” coming on. :-] Congrats on F.P.

  43. Pingback: Bloggus Interruptus « Nebula

  44. I used to teach dance classes and you wouldn’t believe how many kids under the age of 12 would be so peeved that they weren’t perfect on their first attempt at something new. Young, healthy kids, who couldn’t be bothered to practice!
    Good for you for perfecting your art. You are quite a skilled writer, by the way, so things are only going to go up from here for ya πŸ™‚

  45. Great post. Thanks for taking the time to share your writing knowledge and for some great writing exercises.

  46. good i love it, the form that you explain this i will say to my sister that read this of the esprts its so interesting

  47. Definitely a subscription from me! I loved this. I practice writing by…well, this! I’m a junior English major in college and I’m not quite sure where I’ll want to go with my degree when I graduate, so I’m trying to get some of my writing out in the “real world” (if the online community counts as that) and connect with some people that could offer helpful advice and tips! I’m definitely going to get in the habit of those morning pages. Maybe that will be my motivation to get out of bed in the morning, ha. I’d love if you checked out my blog and offered suggestions, you sound like you’ve got some great advice and hopefully you’ll enjoy some of my works as I post them πŸ™‚

  48. That’s great!
    I wish I had more time to practice my writing…..

  49. For me, believe it or not, I think rewriting (transcribing really) my favorite books is truly great exercise. Writing under pressure also keeps you sharp. Definitely important to always have something to write with when inspiration strikes – so aside from a moleskin, I have added an iPad to my arsenal! Great post and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!
    http://www.thepeoplestuff.com

  50. Ha ha. Twice-pressed now, I see. Good for you! I have nothing to add to your original question but just stopped by to congratulate you.

  51. Practice is the only way. We all need to continue new ways to work on our writing. Just like our minds process information in different environments differently, we also write differently in different environments. By practicing writing in restaurants ( re: Mamet or Gladwell ) a style optimized for public reading can be attained. Mind you many writer don’t want to write anywhere other than there trusty home office. Practice, wherever it is, matters so much.

  52. practice makes perfect..=)

  53. Thank you for sharing this! I just started a blog last week to actually force myself to practice writing more- my struggle is actually sharing any work that I don’t think has reached greatness. I took a creative writing class recently that forced us to share work in progress with other writers, and that has made writing so much easier for this wannabe perfectionist. Your tips are great, I especially like the one about “Letters in a Jar”… I think I may have to start doing that! I also think that I need to subscribe to this blog- congrats on being freshly pressed as well!

    • Anjuli, Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you do subscribe πŸ™‚ I’m glad to read you like the hand-written letters idea. Once in a while there’s an article or essay about handwriting falling to the wayside in our high-tech society. For me, handwriting is an art in itself, and a handwritten letter is a gift!

  54. It’s all practice.

  55. Lovely post. A well deserved freshly pressed. Thanks for sharing!

  56. This is really great. When I was younger, I always wanted to be an author. I drifted away from that idea for a while, but I’ve recently came back to it.
    Some of these ideas I’ve never thought of before, to keep myself “practicing.”
    Really great post. πŸ™‚ Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    Thanks,
    Taylor

  57. I usually practice procrastination but after reading your post, maybe not! Thank you.

  58. Thank you for the inspiration, I started writing five years ago, I stopped maybe writers block, but its a love of mine after reading your blog I am going to write again.

  59. Thanks for the tips! πŸ™‚

  60. Very good article. I find myself feeling like your son a lot – I just want to be able to do things without having to learn them. The nice thing is that when it’s something you really want to do, it doesn’t seem like work.

  61. Hello,

    Very nice post. I wanted to write from a long time but never really started. so I bought a diary & found myself scribbling in it quite a few times every week. Like you I started writing letters to a friend of mine who stays in a different state and also started a blog to improve. Great going..Keep it up πŸ™‚

  62. Great post. Learned a lot. I especially loved that writing a letter to a friend. Not only practices you but the end product is a priceless gift to a friend. Your post reminded me that writers really ought to be disciplined if we want to turn out read-worthy pieces. Thanks again and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. I found your blog through it. =)

  63. So far, like you say, I’m just practicing forcing myself to write. I write a lot for my thesis, but you really don’t get to stretch your creativity that way. Sure, my intellect gets stretched to its absolute limit, but the limits of academic writing are very constraining. Hence my blogging – no limits or rules, just a self-imposed rule to write at least one post a day.

  64. Great post, thank you. Its so true!

    When I re-read some of my earliest articles I just cringe, so I can see that I’ve improved at least a little! Your comments around discipline with writing time are spot on too – there’s nothing like self-imposed deadlines to get you to the keyboard (although externally imposed deadlines seem to work well too!)

    Found this via ‘freshly pressed’ – looking forward to reading more.

    • Thanks, Olwen, for your comment. I just read your post on A Diet to Beat Acne…I could check off all the “not to do’s” on your list. Maybe that’s why – at forty – I look like I’m fifteen again. Man, oh man.

  65. I really agree with you when it comes to COMMITTING yourself to writing daily. I’m at the stage where I’m honing my DISCIPLINE skills. I am finding that the simple everyday task of sending an office e-mail is a start! Thanks for the great tips!

  66. Hi, Christi,
    I stumbled on your blog on wordpress and I’m so glad I did. I couldn’t agree more about the importance of practicing our craft. One of the things I love is participating in NaNoWriMo in November. It gives me a month of great prompting, great practice, and the rush of completing a novel at a break neck pace. I can’t wait for November!

    • Ooo! Have fun with NaNoWriMo (fun is what it’s all about, right?). I did that for two years straight and managed to get some good work out of it. I’m not participating this year, but I’ll be rooting for several writing friends on the sidelines πŸ™‚

  67. Sigh…thanks for the reminder, and the great post. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  68. I’m so glad I stumbled upon your freshly pressed-post. To me, Tip #4 implied the following: Be fearless. I need to stop being so afraid of my writing and just put it all out there for everyone to read, either in blog- or submission-format. Thank you for providing the gentle nudge I needed!

    • I’m so glad you stopped by, glad my post gave you that incentive to share your work. In my experience, I’ve also found that Writing (or Critique) partners help me refine my work and – at the same time – help me find the courage to send that work out into the world. Good luck to you!

  69. Hi, chanced upon your blog and liked it too. I’m a humble blogger who writes once in a while. Guess I should follow your tips. thanks

  70. Found you via Freshly Pressed. I just love this post. I’ve written since my early teens. Short stories, journals, rants and raves etc. I was so passionate back then, practicing daily. Don’t know where I lost the commitment to the craft. Just this week, I began the journal thing again and fearful,yet giddy with exhilaration, I began my blog http://jewelinkenya.wordpress.com

    Thanks again for reminding me to renew my commitment to writing.

  71. Keeping a blog and a journal. Fancy stationery also acts as extra motivation.

  72. Writing a poem is good practice for me. It sharpens my observation, helps bring inner and outer worlds together and often causes the strangest things to collide in one short piece.

  73. I used to keep a hand-written journal. I have several filled volumes. Then something changed – I got a computer…and now I barely hand write anything at all. I do find that when I pick up that pen, I think more about the words I choose and am often happier with the outcome. I suppose this is where I need to spend more ‘practice’ time. Thanks for the encouraging tips.

  74. Love this post! I swear by Natalie Goldberg’s notebooks. I just wrote a post about that technique, too. I’m glad I found your post, it’s nice to read about someone else validating their own experience as a writer. Love your style. I’ll add you to my blog roll. XOXO

  75. Pingback: Whaaat? You’re Telling Me Teachers Have to Practice Writing, Too? | The Road Less Travelled

  76. My biggest aid to developing my writing has been starting a blog!

  77. Lovely post. I really learned a lot. Especially loved that writing a letter to a friend. Not only practices you but the end product is a priceless unlike an email which goes *read. poof. delete*. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. I found your blog through it. : D

  78. Wow…
    Nice writing!
    I feel lucky that I found your blog via freshly pressed.
    Now I have more reason to start to progress to typing or writing stages.
    Somehow I always managed to avoid the writing stages. 😦

  79. Yowza, Christi, I was going to comment to say what a great post this is, but now I want to say how wonderful that you are getting such great feedback!! I’ll be proud to say “I knew her when it all started…” πŸ˜€
    Hugs,
    Lisa

  80. Very glad to read about the struggle to write.

    One thing I have is a writing partner. We exchange small fragments on messenger during the day. Occasionally a funny idea will arise – typically from an office setting. Then the other person will write 2 paragraphs, turning this idea into a funny short story-ette.

    Here are some examples we like from this exercise: http://elevens.es

    -Smidge

  81. Hi Christy,
    I came here via Freshly pressed. I have a dream to write my own book someday. But the motivation to think about a subject and writting on it have been an issue. Your practice points are just the right kind of tips which I needed. Thanks for your post.
    Congratulation and Best wishes. May you Reach Your Dream!
    Vijaya

  82. I really like the idea of writing letters more often! great post!

  83. Thank you. This has been a nice read. Moreover, that it talks about determination and how you operationalize it through your practices inspire me. Keep it up. πŸ™‚

  84. I definitely agree. In high school we had to do “rapid writes” where we’d be given a paragraph and would have to compose a 5 paragraph essay within 25 minutes. Very difficult, but I can’t think of anything that helped my writing more.

  85. Thank you for your advice. As an amateur writer just starting a blog, I appreciate it. After reading a couple of your comments… I would also love to automatically be able to play the piano.

    • Thanks for stopping by. Just took a peek at your post “It’s Hard Work, but….” As a fellow Mother Writer, I know the challenges that come with parenting. And, writing. And, trying to do both at the same time πŸ™‚

      Little by little, it all gets done. Good luck to you.

  86. I came upon this blog through Freshly Pressed. I might just have to try some of your ways of practicing writing. As a child, I’ve always wanted to be a writer but through school, I felt like I never would be able to. Now, I have gone back to wanting to write and that is why I started blogging. Hopefully someday with enough practice, I’ll be able to write a novel. Thanks for the tips!

  87. Love this! Practicing my writing was one of the reasons I started blogging!

  88. Super post. I especially like the part about “crafting the ever-painful three sentence bio.” Writing one of those little babies is difficult…more so than writing a short story!
    Another thing that helps with writing fiction and poetry is to take the time to observe people, places, and things. “Listen” how people speak to each other and really watch how they treat one another. Some great character traits will be noticed, along with opportunites to gain valuable insight into how unique every individual is. I always have note cards with me to write down my favorite observations.
    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  89. Christi, I’m with Lisa. Great post, and what a good discussion it’s generating in your comments section. So cool! Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed and kudos on this post. xoxo Beth

    • Thanks, Beth! I have to admit, reading the comments is half the fun of this whole Freshly Pressed experience! I love discovering other blogs and hearing from other writers out there!

  90. Nice post. Love your ideas on the practicing bit. Now to only find that time !! Congrats on getting freshly pressed.

  91. As an English teacher at our local community college, this is my mantra. Like Dorie the fish from FINDING NEMO who says, “Just keep swimming,” I often say, “Just keep writing!”

    As for myself, I write on napkins, scraps of paper, the backs of important documents: whenever an amazing idea strikes. I have a nearly complete manuscript and it is my priority to get that sucker published while there are still real books on the shelves.

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    If you’d like to check out my bloggie, check out “Lessons For Teachers and Twits,” I love to read your comments! (Mostly, I’m a twit.)
    http://rasjacobson.wordpress.com

  92. As a writer, I’ve always said that when you sit down to write, it can’t feel like a special occasion. You’re absolutely right in that practice matters. Thanks for posting!
    A good exercise that I always like is to open up a book poems, randomly, choose a line, and use it as a prompt.

  93. Great post, Christi! I especially liked that you included “Submitting” on here. I see so many bloggers writing so much work, never to send in a page. Query writing and feedback is key!

  94. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed. Thanks for this great article on practice, it does help one get past ‘but this isn’t good enough’ to get started. I’m subscribing to your blog. Thanks so much for sharing your valuable insights.

  95. Insightful post and great blog!

    My writing has been predominantly content/research led in the past but I’m just starting to embrace the actual writing side of it and am really getting into it. Catching the bug I guess. It would seem that I quite enjoy ‘riffing’ in particular.

    Keep up the good/hard work!

  96. Christi, I’ve done (and do) all the things you mention in your post. Although I don’t consider my current effort ‘creative writing’ (gobusywoman.com) I have engaged in actual creative writing since I was a child. I keep a small notebook with me always (and by always, think brushing my teeth, strolling by perfume counters in Macy’s, pulling weeds in my yard). Sometimes a word, sentence or plot thread will jolt me when I least expect it… I’ve written the word ‘languish’, I’ve written the statement “I’ll keep your secret” and didn’t know whose secret it was or why it was worth keeping, I’ve written names that I thought would be good for characters…

    My other suggestion would be to go to therapy. The best writers write what they know about. If you know your emotions and failures and triumphs inside and out, you can convey them through your characters. Your characters will be more real to the reader because you are expressing things that you’ve experienced very deeply. Therapy is an excellent place to let that bubble to the surface – just be sure to have your notebook ready to capture your feelings… in the parking lot.

    gobusywoman.wordpress.com

  97. Found your stuff while surfing this morning, a good read over a cup of coffee. I also bookmarked you (subscribed) and will check in from time to time to peruse and enjoy. Good stuff.

    “What kinds of exercises help you practice your writing?”

    I carry a small note book with me for ideas. That helps.

    BCO

    • Thanks, BCO, for stopping by and subscribing πŸ™‚ I also carry around notebooks – too many notebooks and too many pens. As a writer, I can never get enough of either πŸ™‚

  98. I’ve played mandolin all my adult life. One of these days I’m gonna take some lessons and figure out what I’ve been doing all these years.

    Dr. B

  99. The mother, from a small thing in a lot of profound insight into what, from his son just learned how to play the trumpet to practice writing, is not easy

  100. Great post.

    It was very encouraging and insightful.

  101. Hello Christi,

    Great post! I really like your advice about writing every day. I find that difficult to do sometimes, but my professional job also encompasses writing daily; therefore, I might find it hard once at home. Regardless, I need to keep the CREATIVE juices flowing and therefore, blogging helps to keep my mind flexible. I once even wrote a blog about writer’s block. Amazingly, it opened the door for a great piece of work!

    Feel free to stop by my site, if you ever wish. I just posted a blog entitled, “Entice Magazine Editors and Media–Successfully Pitch Your Story!” Good luck on writing your novel!

    Best,
    Shari Lopatin
    http://ShariLopatin.wordpress.com

  102. Excallent post. Great to have found it.

    http://maryawrites.wordpress.com/
    permanent signature.

  103. As an athlete practice and working were clearly defined and success could be measured easily. Making the transition to “writer” was a challenging one. Realizing the value of practice, even when I couldn’t put it on the same quantitative scale was difficult. The way you’ve laid out your days and deadlines is fabulous. It’s always helpful to get another idea of how to make writing into something I love to do, not just something I talk about loving to do.

  104. Pingback: Friday Five: Five Blogs that Get it Right | Everyday Intensity

  105. Great blog! And exactly the reason I am on wordpress and created a blog – to try to learn some discipline and write a little bit each week… though after reading your blog I think I should be aiming higher :)!

  106. Pingback: Good Morning Pages! - Lisa Rivero

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