Writing Daily: The Importance of Practice Writing

notebook-and-pencill-2Some people say that if you want to be a great writer, you must write a certain amount in your novel every day. Some people say that writing daily is ridiculous and impossible for anyone with a “real life.” I’m going to take the middle road with that idea–I do consider it important to write every day, but it does not need to be in your major project. Of course, if it is, then that’s all the better for you! But taking a break from your novel, or working on something else on the side, can also help benefit your writing and help you do a better job on the project you most want to complete.

I’ve been re-reading an old favorite of mine, Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg. One thing that Goldberg consistently emphasizes in this book is the importance of practice writing. There are different ways to do it and different approaches, but the principle must remain the same: writing is a craft, an art form. And like anything else, it requires a lot of practice to get it done well.

Practice writing can be whatever you want, so long as it helps you get in your writing mode. It doesn’t have to be in the genre or style of your serious project (actually, it’s typically better if it’s something different so you can get a good contrast in your flow) and you need to give yourself permission to do the worst writing in the world. This probably won’t turn into a serious novel that will need to be revised. You just need to form the habit of writing daily, no matter what it is.

In college, I used to do a free writing exercise that I really need to get back in the habit of doing. I would think up an unusual starting sentence or a phrase (e.g., “You look a lot like Abraham Lincoln…”) and then I would open up my notebook and write a full page on the topic, as fast as I could, without thinking. It usually took about five minutes. Some of the exercises came out horribly, some sparked ideas for more serious writing, and some were too weird to think about much afterwards. All helped give me confidence in my serious writing and helped my mind spawn ideas.

If you need help getting around to writing those final pages in your novel, maybe you should pull out an old notebook or new word document and just try practice writing for a while. You could do free writing as I did, or you could write fan fiction for your own story or anything you feel like. Just remember it’s ok to mess up so long as you do get around to writing something, and then when you’re feeling more confident you can finally look your novel in the eye and know that this time you really do have a shot at finishing it.file7391308350582

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