Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Practice Makes Permanent

Twelve years ago, I was a member of my middle school orchestra. (I played voila, thank you very much). The orchestra teacher was kind of psychotic, which is a great thing for a public school (please note my sarcasm) but she did teach our class one concept that stuck:

“Practice makes permanent.”

She stressed that even if you practice endlessly, you can’t guarantee that it will be perfect. If you practice the wrong hand position or the wrong finger placement, it will be permanent, and definitely not perfect. Therefore, practice makes permanent. It was a pessimistic lesson for a bunch of 7th graders, but it was an important one.

In the case of orchestra, “Practice makes permanent” is a bad thing, or it can be. However, in the case of writing, it’s a good thing.

If you write daily, then it will become easier to pick up the pen or turn on the laptop and start pecking away. Writing 300 words a day will turn into 500 a day and even hopefully 1000 words daily. Luckily though, there’s nothing permanent in writing. That’s what editing is for. There’s just something permanent in the writing habit.

So I practice. I open my story document – saved on my Darth Vader USB drive (borrowed from my boyfriend) and I write. Some days I just stare. Some days I add comments: “This needs work.” “Describe the character here.” “WHERE’S THE TENSION?!”

You know, helpful reminders. A few days later, the document will be full of comments. Some days it so full of notes that it’s tough to look at. But with work, and a little writing, I can have it comment-clean and a few pages longer within a week. Then the writing, re-reading, editing, extending process starts again. It’s a long one, and it’s definitely confusing, but there’s always progress. And progress is the point, as well as creating the permanent, but not always perfect, writing habit.

Here’s some helpful blog posts on creating a writing habit:

Goins, Writer:  How to Form a Daily Writing Habit


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hey, Jamie, I found you! Great job on your blog!

    When in the midst of writing my novels, I try to strive for a page a day, nothing too intense that I can't easily meet that quota when I've had a long working day or been away from my computer for any reason; and if I'm having a day when the groove is great, even better! And the best thing about first drafts is you are allowed to skip any part you're not ready to put down onto the page at that moment. The first draft is, by its very nature, rough, and one should be quite ready to knock the story around and tell it you're the boss. Plus, cut and paste is your best friend!

    After I learned how, with trial and error, to write novels in a way that suits my style, I began finishing stories much more readily. The same method I've used ever since gives me the freedom to be as rough with my first draft as I need to be to meet my qouta. Some days it's just a paragraph and others its five pages—that happens.

    Here's my structure I employ so I don't get discouraged when the blank page really wants to stay blank and yet I can start up again another day:

    I create a document I title, simply enough, "Story Ideas," in which I jot down pieces of sequences, beats, main themes, characters (with traits, etc.) and anything else that creeps into my mind, in no particular order. This I'll let marinate for a time until a plot begins to form, which I then proceed to a new document which I title "Story Outline." Here I'll number paragraphs and try (heh) to build the skeleton of my story. Sometimes I'll even try out dialogue and prose which can be put into the first draft later on. Of course your mileage may vary and no author should be beholden to any notes previously written down. With that, I begin the first draft. And it's worth noting that with my two biggest books to date, neither one have the original, first-draft chapters. I scrapped both because they felt wrong.

    Good luck and good writing.


  3. Thanks for the writing tips! They're very helpful. Right now I'm struggling with organization. I have a rough plot and the beginning chapters, but my mind/nature wants everything to be organized. I know I shouldn't be so rigid in a first draft though so I'm working to overcome it. It'll happen. Thanks again- I'll keep what you said in mind!

  4. You're welcome, thanks for letting me ramble. I love that there's so much more networking for new writers these days then when I started in high school.

    Yeah, organization is tough because if you're too loose, your story can fall apart, and too much and the story stagnates. With the original sequel to my first book I put so much crap into the outline, plotting and reference that it ran out of steam and I quit it. But I got a better story out of its ashes when I relaxed!

    Remember to have fun when you're writing, too!