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Practice Makes Progress
Less power walking, more dancing
‘Practice makes perfect’ is such a common phrase that Google auto-completed it after I typed ‘practice’ and the letter ‘m’.
But practice doesn’t make perfect because ‘perfect’ is an unhelpful illusion in creative work. Instead, practice makes progress.
Practice is important because it’s through the act of doing that we figure out what works and what doesn’t. Practice allows us to try and succeed or try and fail, inherently breeding confidence with each stroke of the paintbrush / type of the keyboard / mix of cookie dough / rehearsal of a dance routine. Once we become more aware of a subject matter, tool or technique, we become more comfortable sharing it with the world in the form of our creative outputs.
While practice doesn’t always feel like progress, we must step back to see it over time. Creativity is non-linear and it’s messy, but when we zoom out we have enough perspective to appreciate the journey that has a looping, upwards trajectory.
On Reading and Writing
I have always been an okay writer, but I’m someone who had to write and rewrite and then rewrite again before it was ready. It never felt possible for me to write a clean first draft with my ideas in a logical order.
Even when I began writing professionally 15 years ago, I still considered myself an average writer who took forever to finalize a good copy.
It wasn’t until I was forced to practice under serious time constraint that I became a strong writer. This happened in 2013 during my Master’s degree where I was taking 2 x 3-week intensive courses at the same time. I would attend class all day and then return to my rental space to read and write long responses to complex prompts. This was on top of the assignments, papers and projects required to successfully complete the courses. I had no time to question my writing ability or mull over imperfection.
I credit this intense practice with getting me over the hump, forcing me to get out of my own way.
I became a stronger writer a full 5 years after I became a professional writer. Since this time, I’ve become a faster, stronger, more confident writer. I’m definitely not perfect (I’m currently on the fourth round of edits on this piece), but consistent practice has made progress, bit by bit.
On Reading My Writing
Much like my first podcast episode, I could look back on my first articles (one, two, three!) and point out all the flaws, knowing that it’s inferior work by my standards today and cringing at the thought that it’s readily available on the Internet. But this is what relinquishing control over the final outcome is all about and this is when our bravery and self-compassion is needed most; when we’re separated from our past work by months, years or even decades.
I’ve felt steady progress and knowing that my work will never be perfect, I choose contentment; simultaneously honouring my past writing, taking pride in my present writing and remaining open to my future writing.
Quality and quantity count in creative work because with quantity comes quality; the latter could not exist without the former. Both are needed and both matter.
Cha Cha Cha
If you’re anything like me, when it comes to making time to practice, some days you are in the zone. Things are working smoothly, you’ve got ideas coming from every direction and things are happening.
Two steps forward.
But as with all ebbs and flows in life, there are days when I just. feel. stuck. Nothing is quite going right and I don’t feel motivated to produce anything creative.
Two steps forward, one step back…
My creativity comes in spurts. Sometimes all I can do is wait for my next idea, priming my brain by reading and listening and walking and taking in all of the sensory information I can become inspired. And then when the inspiration comes, it’s often in a crazy downpour. I turn my umbrella upside down and try to catch as many ideas as I possibly can.
During these intense periods of creative flow, I can write 2000 or 3000 coherent, meaningful words at a time. Other days, words I struggle exit brain through fingers and page doesn’t fill good.
I know my creativity works this way and I don’t panic when it doesn’t clock in during business hours. I rest assured knowing that my next idea and flow state will come in it's own time. I have to be patient and therefore I give myself lots of time to let things marinate, working to my own internal deadlines ahead of external deadlines.
None of us can be our most creative selves all the time and I think this is an important part of the process; without the lows, we wouldn’t know the highs. For example, when I originally wrote these words, I had a screaming toddler at my knees who was mad for a reason I couldn’t figure out, a preschooler refusing to play at the park and an active dog pulling at my hip leash wanting to sniff everything in sight. I had not accomplished anything near what I wanted that day, but getting frustrated wasn’t going to solve any problems.
I decided that the day was less of a power walk forward and more of a lighthearted dance around my creative practice.
Two steps forward, one step back, one to the side! Cha! Cha! Cha!
Photo by Austrian National Library on Unsplash
Remixed by Diana
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