When I was a kid, my parents sent me to piano lessons. I had a vague notion that it might be kind of neat to play a musical instrument. That vague notion, however, did not translate into me actually practicing the piano. Most weeks, my thirty-minute lessons were the only practice I got. Which is how I became the musical genius I am today.
Kidding. My entire piano repertoire is pecking out “Twinkle Twinkle Little a Star” with one hand. I didn’t practice, so I never got better.
When it comes to writing, however, I have more than a vague notion about scratching out a story. I have serious goals, and I’ve put in the time to develop my skills, strengthen my weak points, and push my writing ability to its limit.
I wrote about the value of deliberate practice in an earlier post as a means of improving a skill. The things that sets deliberate practice apart from regular practice is that it requires me to constantly operate at the edge of my capacity in an effort to continue expanding that capacity.
So if I already know I’m good at dialogue, then writing ten pages of dialogue counts as practice, but because I am retreading familiar ground, it isn’t the kind of practice that will push me to become a better writer.
The thing about all this limit pushing and deliberate improvement is that it’s hard work. Constantly doing things I’m not yet good at can be exhausting. So sometimes it’s nice when my manuscript’s revision checklist includes things I’m already good at.
I call this magical moment the Fun Part, and I’m at a welcome interval now when I get to work on aspects of writing that come easily to me. I’ve been laboring in the writing mines, and now I get to have a word picnic. I’ve lamented about how my high school and college creative writing classes taught me nothing about the macro level work of assembling a novel. But they did a great job teaching the micro level aspects of writing craft, and I’m finally getting down to that level in my manuscript. I spent years, years ago, putting in the hard work on these skills. I know I still have plenty to learn and improve, but I’ve done enough of it that this is the Fun Part. And I’m loving every minute.
What is the Fun Part of writing for you?