Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Flawless Writing?

I went to college for music. That was, of course, a while ago now. But one thing I learned as a musician, is that when one practices, it is important not to practice something wrong. Once one practices the wrong note, or technique or whatever, it is much harder to move past it than if one were to get it right the first time. I'm sure the same can be said for athletes or anything else that requires a skill.

I went to a face painting class recently. The instructor told us about the time she had lunch with a member of Cirque du Soleil
She told us that they practice a performance for two years before they actually bring it to stage. She also told us that he used a philosophy called flawless practicing (or something along that line, I don't remember exactly what it was called).

The man was a juggler. When he creates a new routine, he starts with only one ball. He practices that one ball until he can do it with his eyes closed. Only then does he add a second, and then a third. His routine is perfect when it is done. In the last fifteen years, he's never dropped a ball.

So the instructor encouraged us to use flawless practicing of our brush strokes. To paint 100 tear drops in a row without making a mistakes. To aim for consistent accuracy. So when the time comes during a job (or performance) your painting doesn't suffer.

So, with that in mind, it got me to think about my writing. It kind of goes along with Amparo's post yesterday, about letting our internal editors in. If we plow though a manuscript, not caring of the words that come out, are we practicing to be bad writers?  Every time we do something, it reinforces that action. So is spewing out as many words as we can a good thing?

Now, I'm not saying that we need to hang on the same page, editing it over and over again. I've done that before, and it really doesn't help complete a manuscript. But it does have me thinking about what does come out when I write. Perhaps I should focus on the quality of my words each day, instead of wordcount. In the long run, is writing muck just to get the draft done quickly going to help me grow in my craft?

Just some thoughts...


  1. What a great one-two with Amparo's post yesterday. I love this:

    "If we plow though a manuscript, not caring of the words that come out, are we practicing to be bad writers?"

    Very thought-provoking

  2. I tend to mull over things a long time before I put pen to paper (or words to screen) and I think that helps those first drafts. Not that I never have occasion to do trimming in rewrites (ha!), but that it does give me time to weed out the sillier subplots or characters that occur to me.

  3. Hmmm...good point. For me, it helps to have something on the page because I tend to edit better than I write...I do better with something to work with :D However, I also tend to just leave myself notes in brackets rather than put in something I know I'll just edit out later.

    For instance, I might have something that says "Min ran down the hallway, muttering [find a Victorian curse word] while she [give her something important to do].

    That way, I can still move ahead with the scene instead of sitting there staring at the page for an hour, but I'm not just spewing garbage either.

  4. Ooh, good idea, Michelle. This is an interesting discussion. I like the idea of perfect practice, but since writing is so subjective, too, it's not something that can be perfect, like a circle or a square.

    Thanks, Kristal, for the reminder to be mindful while I write. I do think mindfully writing something bad can be good, too. For instance, when I have writer's block, one of my favorite ways to break out is to write something purposefully bad. It makes me smile and frees up that perfection center that won't let me write.

    But yeah, at a certain point, too much garbage can't be edited into gold.

  5. Oh, it's such a delicate balancing act! On the one hand, it's important to get words out to keep up the momentum, on the other, the words have to matter and they have to be powerful. Good thing revisions are allowed!


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