Practice, Practice, Practice

Folks out there in Bloglandia seem really often to run up against the same kinds of concerns at the same moments, without necessarily knowing about one another, as though there’s something in the zeitgeist that suddenly makes its way to consciousness in multiple locales at once. Witness Shauna’s thoughts on the cumulative effects of her recent blog silence and Mel’s musings on the downside of binge writing. Both intersect with something I’ve been pondering for the last couple of months — that when I write every day, whether here at Planned Obsolescence or elsewhere, on other projects, writing gets easier and easier. Not just in terms of the production of sentences, though that of course comes more smoothly, but also in the production of thoughts, of things worth writing about.

The posting-binge of the last few weeks, before I had to call a mental-health-serving hiatus on Katrina-blogging, really highlighted that for me: the more I wrote, the more I found worth writing about. When I discipline myself to post something every day, or as close to it as I can, I find myself watching the world around me slightly differently, and treating my thoughts slightly differently, as though any occurrence or any idea might be capable of blossoming and bearing fruit. When I’m not posting, nothing seems worth writing about, just a bunch of dried-up seeds that’ll eventually blow away or be eaten by the birds.

The same is of course true of whatever other project I’m working on: when I don’t touch it for weeks at a time, it takes hours just to remember what it was I was thinking last time I wrote, and any brilliant thoughts that I may have failed to get on paper then are long since gone.

Why does it take until the age of 38, until the eighth year of an academic career, to realize that writing is in many ways like playing the piano? No one attempting to be a pianist, whether professionally or for personal enjoyment, would assume that practicing once a month, fourteen hours a day, for three days in a row, would be better than practicing an hour a day, every day, rain or shine. Why is it that so many of us think of writing that way, as something that must be put off until there are huge blocks of time available?

I’m working on this, quite seriously: every day, for small chunks of time, I’ll sit down at the keyboard and practice.


  1. Very well put. Especially the dried up seeds of thought that blow away — I’ve been wondering if my resentment of the horrible essay crunch I’m in is in some way fueled by my hurricane-related blog sparsity over the past two weeks. But at least when I played music there were always scales and etudes to work on — instead of needing to imagine a sonata, and begin fumbling around at it, there was one there already for me to learn.

    I’m in my 8th year too. I wonder if reconsidering all of one’s writing habits has to wait until now, until after the tenure hurdle etc. But it does feel frustrating, like I missed out on the rule book years and years ago.

  2. I forget the need for practice as well. Because of my recent move, I’ve been slightly derailed (even if I’ve had the chance to write somewhat frequently on my blog).


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