Practis, Practise, Practice.

Posted by admin on November 20, 2017 in Storytime |

I admit that I am a bit out of shape right now. I have not been working out as much as I should. Part of it has been the nature of my work lately, which is more strategic than it is literary. I have also been a bit under the weather for the last week, which has muddled my brain more than usual and disrupted my workout routine.

There was a time when I worked out every day. I churned through 1,000 reps like it was nothing at all. I could almost do it in my sleep. And rather than be exhausted at the end, I felt energetic and liberated.

These days, I probably get 2,000 reps in over the course of a week instead of the routine I once had. Still, I probably get more of a workout than 95% of Americans. I know this because Grammarly sends me a weekly report telling me as much.

Yes, I’m talking about a writing workout. My friends often ask me why writing seems so easy for me, why I can whip out thousands of words and they not only largely make sense, but often are a bit lyrical and even informative. Of course, they can also be lighthearted or persuasive, sometimes thoughtful, other times provocative.

Such is the magic of the language. In skilled hands, the keyboard is still mightier than the sword. And like swordsmanship, the craft requires continually exercise, exploration and refinement.

Writing isn’t an easy task. Some of my friends think it is easy for me. It is easier for me than others, but only because I work at it constantly. I have since I was young, I guess. I have come to learn that the voracious pursuit of knowledge in my youth contributed greatly to my writing today. You have to read the writing of others to write your own. There’s no shortcut for this. You can’t take a writing class and suddenly think you’re Twain or Hemingway. Hell, you can’t even become a Dave Barry.

As the headline says, it takes practis, practise, practice.

There was a time, not so long ago, that I churned out a thousand words every morning. I had heard Jimmy Buffett wrote this way. He said that if you write a thousand words every morning, you end up with a 52,000-word book by the end of the year.

That’s a bit of an oversimplification, of course. You’ll end up with 52,000 words indeed, but it may include 24,000 words that are complete crap. Few people on earth can write a book without the inevitable rewrite. And rewrite. And rewrite. Writing is not so much the discipline of putting words to paper, but refining these words so that they are the Goldilocks – not too many, not too few, all just right.

That takes a lifetime of practice. Even a best-selling writer will tell you so. There is little perfection in this line of work. Given time and money, every writer will tell you that they would rewrite everything they have done previously because writing is an exploration of the soul. Everything you learn in life informs your work, and as you go through this journey we call life, the view through the looking glass changes continually, so what was once good or even great, is now schlock, even to the point of embarrassment.

Can you become a good writer? Sure, you can. If you paid attention in language arts to the basic rules, you can master the rest through continual practice and refinement of the craft. Writing is like playing the piano. It’s difficult at first to create any melody at all. Your hands don’t want to follow along to what your mind them telling it to do. Eventually, though, the simple scale that is the basis of all music exposes its masterful simplicity in an endless variety of notes, phrases, passages and opuses.

Funny how both pursuits of the arts – music and writing – today rely on a keyboard. I will readily admit that a piano has way too many keys for me to make anything masterful. I mean, I only have eight fingers and two thumbs and a piano has 88 places where I need to place them. It is simply overwhelming to me.

Yet, as I write this, I realize that I can play my computer keyboard with the same relative ease, not once having to look down at the keys to see where my fingers are going. Long ago my fingers learned to stop tying letters and type words instead. That single skill has allowed my fingers to almost keep up with my mind, the words spilling from the latter to the former in close to real time.

It is practice to make perfect, even though perfection is never achievable by a writer. That’s part of the fun. It’s also part of the great torment that all artists experience at one point or another. They fear the blank canvas or piece of paper, or in this day and age, the blank screen.

Without practice, filling that page becomes far more difficult. I think most artists understand this. Certainly, painters or sculptors do. They continually practice their strokes and motions. A masterpiece just doesn’t fall from the sky. Like a classic novel, every stroke, every chisel chip, reveals the masterpiece that is awaiting discovery.

So it is with writing. Thankfully, I am back to working out. This page is proof of that. I’ve been writing for about 20 minutes now, this stream of consciousness. Such are RobZerrvations. They are more of an early morning workout before the real work begins, a way to limber up the muscles and memory so that as the day goes on, writing is not a chore, but a pleasure, a mere extension of my being and my soul, which yearns to express itself as much as the ideas that are put to page.

I consider myself to be the luckiest guy on earth. I get to write for a living. I get to share my unique human experience and perspective with others. If just one person on this earth learned something from a piece I’ve written, then I have succeeded, for it shows that I was here and I had something to say. I’m sure you do too.

In the Emerald City, about to get my cup of coffee so I can read back through this and think, “What the hell was I even thinking?”,

  • Robb

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