Not A Practice, But A Game
(This post was inspired by Rachel Aaron’s ‘The Reason I Write Every Day‘. Thank you, Rachel, for an insightful post!)
In her post, Rachel talks about being forced to practice violin every day, and how that forced practice failed to translate into any kind of real progress. I get that.
For me it was trumpet practice. I had picked up the trumpet because it was loud, and noisy, and didn’t require as much physical activity as drumming. Drummers stood for God’s sake, waving those damn sticks around in both hands, mind you, and sometimes they even joined marching band and carried the damn things.
I remember a day when mom busted in (after thirty minutes of listening to chords) to realize I had propped an X-Men comic on my music stand and was reading that instead of the music, assuming nobody would notice half an hour of A-B-F SHARP.
My point here is that I did not pick up the trumpet because of some deep animal desire to learn the trumpet or trumpet music. I picked it up because music was something I was expected to do, and the trumpet seemed most likely to annoy the largest number of people, and any idiot could figure out how to breathe in here and push buttons there, so it should be pretty simple to fake.
Music isn’t like that. Neither is writing. Creativity isn’t like that.
Very few people – if any – have the talent to simply sit down and fake it convincingly. it takes time, and effort, and a willingness to learn. And, as Rachel points out, it helps immensely if you really enjoy what you’re doing.
Unlike her, though, I still don’t write every day. I was able to when I was young and unemployed, when all I had to do with my day was write or cook or do the laundry. When I was living in my parents’ house and someone else was in charge of things like the rent and the electric bill. Writing, for a long time, has been work, something to approach seriously and on a routine basis.
What I’ve had to do is reclassify writing as relaxation.
Writing can be a lot of fun. Creation IS a lot of fun, in whatever path leads you there. Telling stories and making up words is a beautiful game that can make life simpler if you approach it with that mindset – and since, at the moment, my livelihood is not tied up in those words, I have that luxury afforded to me by the grind I loathe every day.
Turning it on its head is what’s got me writing more, and more, and more. Thinking of it as points in a game rather than a quota to be met.
Since that shift, I’ve written … not every day. But every day in which I used to watch television, or play games, or dawdle aimlessly on the internet.
Which is to say, most of them.
How do you practice? What gives you the time to hone your craft in a way that isn’t work?
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