by Paula Gail Benson
How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!
How do you get happily published? Submit carefully crafted writing.
And, how do you ensure that your submissions are carefully crafted? Write extensively.
Do you have to write every day? Some authors manage without, but I remember what happened when I tried to improve my piano playing and left off practicing until the day before the lesson. The result was passable, but not as polished as it could have been if I had built on a daily habit.
While music and writing may be inspiring to their listeners, they don’t emerge from the muse by someone simply placing their fingers on a keyboard. Music and writing have to be worked out in advance before you can sell tickets to the audience.
Acting is another creative activity that requires prep time. The first reading of a line may “feel” perfect, but once you’ve rehearsed it, you realize more subtle nuances, ways to play off fellow actors, or timed reactions that are funnier or more poignant than the original interpretation.
Pianists and writers are solo performers. Only by repeated practice do they learn the methods that will best charm and involve an audience. One of the greatest joys of a performer can be the private discovery of how a musical or written piece should be presented.
That joy is compounded when they hear the audience’s reaction. The true moment when the muse touches you is when you realize the perfect order and symmetry for your work. An actor or pianist may receive a more instant gratification in hearing applause, but what writer doesn’t relish listening to a reader tell him how his words and stories have changed a life?
Practice is necessary for performances because to act or play piano is an extension of self. The way we turn writing into that extension is to: (1) sit down to write with purpose, and (2) embrace the discoveries made.
By developing a writing habit, you can let the daily discoveries soak in until they become a part of your writer self. You learn to recognize those “tricks” that attract your audience’s attention. Then, you refine them in order to make them appear natural, so they become craft and your audience doesn’t perceive them at all, but is completely involved in the story and hates to see it end. This is the objective of every artist: to tell the story well and leave the listeners satisfied.
Linda Rodriguez has written some inspiring recent messages about becoming motivated to write and making the decision to be a writer. Both feature excerpts from her recent book, Plotting the Character Driven Novel, which is terrific.
Lifelong Writing Habit: The Secret to Writing Every Day by Chris Fox. By illustrating how he changed his entire life through developing consistent practices, Fox shows the path to more effective writing and offers exercises to achieve that goal.