Writing Wrongs

October 26, 2006

Now, see, I almost hesitated posting yesterday since I worried everyone would think I was talking specifically about them. I wasnít. What I really want to talk about is deliberate practice when it comes to writing.

Plain old writing: This is where you sit down and simply write--anything. Natalie Goldberg calls this writing practice. The whole idea is to put words on the page, not necessarily in any coherent form.

Hereís the thing. I feel that a part of writing is purely physical, be it typing on the keyboard or writing longhand. Iím not really familiar enough for other creative outlets, but Iíve never heard of anyone scoffing if an artist sketches, or a musician practices scales, a dancer stretches and does warm ups.

But when it comes to writing, people tend to think you plop down in a chair and brilliant prose flows from your fingertips.


I know a writer who dislikes writing ďwastedĒ scenes for a novel. Thing is, I canít look at any writing as wasted. How could it be? If something didnít work, well, at the very least, you what doesnít work.

The next hurdle is taking writing practice and turning it into deliberate practice. I also think in the realm of deliberate practice, the needs of the writer change over time. What complicates matters is sometimes itís difficult to distinguish growing pains from a truly painful (as in damaging) situation.

Conventional wisdom says, if you canít suck it up in a writersí group, well, you canít suck it up in general. Canít stand the heat, blah, blah, blah. However, not all critique situations are created equal--like any relationship, they can be dysfunctional. Some really put the ďdisĒ in dysfunctional.

Figuring out what you need to grow and protect the work can be a long, hard road. Some people thrive in a workshop environment; some do not. Some writers reach a certain level and stay there. Iíve noticed this in particular at an online writing site I frequent. Iíve been there for enough years to see the same writers making the same exact mistakes.

It made me wonder what mistakes I was making (sure, you think Iím writing about you, but maybe itís all about me, Me, ME). Iím not talking about oops, missed a comma type of mistake, Iím talking about the self-sabotaging ones that keep us from whatever it is we want.

I know I started the year feeling as though I was on a plateau with no hope of going anywhere, except maybe backsliding. What I did was sit down and figure out what I wanted when it came to writing. Then, I looked at how I both learn best and enjoy learning. Based on that, I charted out a path.

With a few minor exceptions, I havenít strayed from that path this year. And, I learned from those minor exceptions--dude, donít stray from the path.

Not yet, at least. Not until I reach the next plateau.

Charity Tahmaseb wrote at 10:21 a.m.