Doing It Daily

pianist, practiceBack in the old days, people were encouraged to attend to daily prayers. Not just encouraged, bullied into it almost. So I have a hard time with the idea of “daily writing.” I’ll write when I damn well please, thank you very much.

But then I think of pianists. They need to play the piano, daily, for weeks and months and years to become merely proficient in their musicianship, much less able to say that they’re accomplished pianists.Tom Brady, Super Bowl, quarterback, New England Patriots

I watched the NFL playoffs this month with open-mouthed awe and listened to the stories of some of these incredible players. They became incredible by natural ability and then hours of daily practice throwing the ball, lifting weights, running sprints, building “kicking legs” and “tackling arms” since they were pre-teens. Day after day, month after month, year after year. Whether a quarterback, a wide receiver, or an offensive lineman, these guys only made it in their profession by spending their life – practicing.

ballet dancer, Nutcracker, en pointeAnd perhaps the most athletic and trained of all – ballet dancers. This December, I witnessed the Nutcracker prince accomplish a ballon, the appearance of briefly floating in the air. The snowflake princess’s pointe technique was superlative, in which she supported all of her body weight on the tips of fully extended feet. Do you know how difficult that is? And how  many years of hard-core practice it took to get there?

runner, marathon

Then I think of my friend, who is training for a marathon, again. She gave herself, and her ailing kidney, a year and a half off from the last marathon, watching her body become sluggish and her figure add the weight she had run off to such effort.  Now, six weeks back into daily training, her face is rosy and her step lighter.

writing, writing sculpture

Wood sculpture by Jiri Netik.

Will my writing become rosier, my fingers lighter if I succumb to daily practice? Will I become a more accomplished writer, by forcing myself to put my words on paper (and computer), every day? At some point in time, will someone read my stories and say “incredible,” because of the extra effort I’ve made in my life to write daily?

writing, writing practice

I know what the answer is, damn it.

Do you have a daily practice?

59 thoughts on “Doing It Daily

  1. Most of the people you mention have to put in so much time because they’re learning to do something specific.They practise daily to become proficient at doing the same thing well and without thought.
    I don’t think you can expect a writer to write daily as we’re not learning to perfect the same thing over and over, we’re allowing out thoughts to create something different each time. That must be thought about and created anew but can’t be pressured.
    Some authors take years to create their books or between books but don’t type the same ones time and again, the have to craft anew each time.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    • I’m so surprised to read your comment! You write so prolifically, with detail and humor, on your blog, that I assumed you wrote on parts of it every day. I must say, it took me years to write my first book (from 1st draft to the 22nd) and some of the time I didn’t touch it for weeks. I always wondered if it would have been completed sooner (and easier) if I stayed with it every day.

  2. Anything I do every day? No. Writing as well. I only write when the muse speaks to me. I’ve been in a bit of a writing funk lately – and I’m wallowing in it. I think I just needed the break. 🙂 I’ve never been to the ballet – it’s on my bucket list.

    • Yet, you know what? We THINK every day, and maybe that’s part of our writing practice! Unlike a ballerina, much of our writing comes from our brain muscle, not our leg muscles. How’s that for rationalization? 🙂

  3. I’m not a writer nor have I been an athlete. But I don’t think that writing every day will make you better- unless you have a deadline from a publisher to get your book completed. Just my 2 cents worth.

    • Always great to get your 2 cents (which is worth much more than 2 pennies). How about photography? Would practicing that make you better? Because your photos are amazing, and I’m guessing they didn’t get there without a lot of practice. 🙂

      • Pamela you are kind. Actually the quality of the photos would be much better if I had a prime lens. The photos bother me a lot but I can not justify a better lens when I need to spend the money on my pets. But thank you for your generous comment. I will give writing a try in a few months.

  4. Hey Pam, thanks for this question/reminder. Every day? Well, with the odd ‘blip’, the one thing I do every day at the moment is meditate, and I do notice a difference if I do slip out of the habit, like the ‘muscle’ needs warming up again. I went though a period, years, of writing morning pages religiously every day, and though it was helpful in many ways, I don’t think it improved my writing but…I don’t think there’s really any way to ignore the fact that daily practice of anything, writing included, has positive results and not just because of the time involved. I think there’s something about prioritizing, developing discipline and finding the strength and depths to do what you say you love, even when you’re not ‘in the mood’ that develops grit and mastery. So, that’s my take, for what it’s worth:-) Hugs, Harula xxx

    • I tend to see daily practice the way you describe it here. I think, even if you just delve into a 10-minute (writing) exercise, like meditating, you go into a deeper place each time, and the frequency makes it easier and better.

  5. Athletes and musicians also receive help (coaches and trainers) to learn their craft. Daily practice isn’t helpful if you’re doing it wrong. You’ll just get better at doing it incorrectly. I don’t write every day, but I don’t wait for the muse, either.

    • What a thoughtful answer. I’d never considered that practicing something wrong defeats the idea of practicing – that makes sense. On the other hand, I always teach my creative writing students that they can’t write ‘wrong.’ Writing (like art) is so subjective, and many times it’s best when one gets rid of the editor inside the head, and just lets it go. That kind of daily writing practice, I think, can free up the words and stories.

  6. I write everyday and I believe by doing so, it has improved. Sure I slip up all the time and don’t get to what I want to polish but so long as I DO write, I believe I am practicing. I am exercising my brain and imagination. 😛

  7. Pam…. this was exactly what I needed this morning as I started my own daily writing “practice.” I found the voice inside my head being both critical “What are you writing that for? No one needs to know that!” and persuasive “You should go back to sleep.” Thank you for this “reason” to try again tomorrow and the inspiration to believe it might be worth my effort. With you in practice, spirit, and gratitude… all the way from California:)

    • Your comment made my day, Shannon. You are so good at working on daily practice in other facets of your life, so I believe that starting your own daily writing practice is a perfect motivator for you. Good luck!

  8. I always have good intentions to do things daily, like practice the piano, or write, but somehow something always gets in the way. I even forget sometimes to take my daily pills. Oh well. I do what I can, when I can, and that is the way it will have to be.

    • I know, Bonnie. I don’t like it when I get down on myself because I haven’t followed through with my daily practice. That in itself can cause writer’s block! So we set out our intentions, but then give ourselves some slack, right?

  9. Writing daily no doubt improves our skills, but I think the biggest advantage to writing daily is it becomes a routine. Plus it’s easier to get back into the story when we frequent it often. But life has an annoying tendency to get in the way and sometimes we don’t get that daily practice in. We just have to remember that sometimes 200 words of ‘practice’ is better than no practice at all. 🙂

    • I totally agree, Carrie, and that’s what I teach my creative writing students. If we sit down to write for ‘an hour’ or ‘to fill 10 pages,’ we get daunted and not a word flows out. BUT, if we just promise ourselves to write for 10 minutes a day, we figure, ‘oh, I can do that.’ And sometimes it really is just 10 minutes, but other times, before we know it, we’ve been writing all morning!:-)

  10. There is lots of food for thought here. Thanks to everyone on both sides. I’m at a transition in my life and wondering how to proceed. I think writing will be a little higher on my list of priorities.

  11. I used to have so much more discipline . I need to get back into it and do the things I love on a regular basis….. thanks for reminding me. As I get older I find that time is running away from me .

    • I know, time isn’t only running from us now, it’s SPRINTING. But I actually find that time can stop when I’m writing. I go in a ‘zone’ and forget where I am, and even that I’m hungry. The sad part is that once I leave the writing table, I find that the clock has continued to tick.

  12. Totally agree with the observations by davidprosser and danielleleneedavis above. I doubt that feverishly writing non-stop will produce optimal results. Focused writing for a shorter time, drawing on reading and other life experiences would (I imagine) result in fresher and more readable work.

    • Thanks for coming to the ‘blog’ table and adding your thoughts, Roy. You must be doing something write, I mean right, in your technique, because I’m having a great time reading Barry, and A Jersey Midsummer Tale is next on my list.

  13. There are several activities where the benefits of practice are clearly evident – athletic activities, ballet, marathon training, and in my own case – playing the guitar. There are other places where it may not be quite so obvious, as in our writing. There are quantitative measures that can show if and how our writing practice produces higher quality work. It is a rather subjective activity 😉

    Writing “quality” is more about a trend than a snapshot – for me at least. There are a few pieces that I have written that I narcissistically gush over. I am proud of the way they turned out because it was exactly what was in my head, and it happened to fall out on to the page that way. Truth is, it occurred that way for many reasons, one of which is my decision to write consistently. Whether it’s daily or not, it is consistent.

    When I look back at the overall trend of my work over the past year or so, I feel like I have become a more mature writer because I have “practiced” at it. And, I look forward to continuing the maturation process for years to come. That’s the great thing about writing – there is no finish line, it just keeps going and going 🙂

    • You are so right – that’s the great thing about writing…and the frustrating thing. There is no finish line! In that way, I suppose we can compare ourselves to golfers. I’ve heard that they are never satisfied with their game, no matter how much they practice and that they can follow up a fabulous swing, with a really bad one.
      But I agree with you, in writing, I think the more we ‘swing’ and practice, the better our writing product. And yes, consistency is what we ‘aim’ for. 🙂

  14. I tried ‘morning pages’ once for a while, but I didn’t feel that it really helped me practice as a writer – I don’t write daily, but I think writing a blog post every week or two weeks really has helped give me some discipline and become more practiced. We certainly need practice but I think doing ‘drills’ every day as athletes and musicians do would take all the enjoyment out of it for me.

    • Oh, I hate the idea of ‘drills’ in writing. Yuck. That would turn me off to my love of writing immediately. I suppose that’s why I like to teach (and practice on my own, weekly with my blog, if not daily) ‘creative’ writing. No drills, just picking a topic or the beginning of a sentence or throwing out 5 divergent words and writing a story around them. I could ‘practice’ that way all day long.
      P.S. I enjoy reading your blog – your last post on ‘the soul of a dog’ really got to me!!

  15. I love your point about writing practice. I think that writing of some description on a daily basis is a good thing ~ even the art of the shopping list. We do a lot more writing than we realise and how about writing on window panes or mirrors!

    • Good point! We write daily every day, even if it’s not at our writing desk or computer. I love sending out (long, too long) e-mails to friends. Great writing practice while keeping in touch. And how about all those post-it’s we leave for ourselves, to remember to tip the newspaper girl and take out the garbage? They count too! 🙂

  16. Well, I winced a bit at this, because in my heart of hearts, I believe daily writing can surely improve one’s skill. I also believe we need to honor our “funks” and nurture ourselves when we need to rest. Many of the top writers ascribe to the daily writing routine. What’s interesting to me is that many say it has little to do with what you write or how good it is—it’s just the practice of regular writing that serves you so well. Great conversation!

    • Yay! We finally got you in here. Thanks for commenting (and not giving up!). Yes, if I’m in a ‘funk,’ trying to write is useless. I agree, honor our moods. On the other hand, maybe if we write on a ‘funk’ day, we’ll feel better. I do know that we writers have to be willing to write as often as possible, but to also realize that we need to edit/delete lots of it. It’s not a waste of time, it’s part of the practice.

  17. Pam, that was an incredible piece; very thought provoking. As you know I have a daily practice again. Starting with prayer and meditation first thing in the morning, before my mind takes over and warps my outlook and fills me with worry and fear about some unresolved issue in my life (no matter how far in the future it might be looming). I have a real hole in my soul when I choose to live with unresolved issues. I don’t have to do that any more. When the day is nearing an end for me I review my day and see what I’ve done that may require my admission of being wrong, angry, agitated, etc.; anything that was said that was not necessary or caused harm to others. In between morning and night time I try to think of others more than of myself. I heard a saying that fits me and is one of my character deficits: “I may not be much, but I’m all I think about”.
    135 continuous days and counting.

    • How I love that quote – you have humor in your meditative practice, and show daily strength in your living. Have you read the book UNBROKEN? Your comments about your daily practice and how you fill the hole in your soul, reminds me of the incredible Louis in this non-fiction book. xo

  18. I think there’s something to be said for daily practice. I’ve read studies that indicate children who are read to daily start kindergarten with a larger vocabulary and are better prepared to learn to read themselves. While I’m not certain daily writing helps, I’m sure it doesn’t hurt. I know for myself, when I get into a daily writing groove, I feel better about my writing and stories begin to flow.

    • That’s how I feel! Maybe daily writing doesn’t make me a better writer, but it sure makes me a more confident one And a more confident writer finds the words flying off of her fingers. By the way, I’m also an advocate of daily reading, for sure.

  19. Excellent post. For some writers at least, it does take that daily discipline to actually put words on the paper (or screen), to review and craft what one has written before, and thus to develop one’s ability. Your reflections provide me with some additional impetus to exercise this discipline, which I sorely lack! Typically I function on the whims of enthusiam and inspiration and the grace of the muse, which does not make for finished projects!

    • Writing is definitely more fun when we’re just following our muse and the inspiration she creates in us, yes. And as I agreed with another writer, above, I don’t think ‘writing drills’ are the kind of ‘discipline’ we’re looking for. However, if we create a discipline to write every day, I bet the muse will join us!

  20. I can’t help but notice that your blog post titles are getting racier as of late! Looking to boost your numbers, eh?

    I write daily, but I don’t think doing so makes me a *better* writer as much as a more disciplined one.

  21. yes…and yes. I take photos every day. I try new things, new angles, new perspectives. I end up deleting a large percentage but I usually learn something from each experience. It’s the process and the discipline.

  22. There is no substitute for good habits and consistent attention to the things we enjoy. I do not write everyday. All the lame excuses – not enough time, not the “right” time, etc. Your blog post here serves as a nudge to self, “You can’t even find ten minutes each day? Really?”

    Keep going, Pamela.

    • By writing this post, I think I even convinced MYSELF that I need to be working my fingers on the keyboard, creating words and stories, every day. And you know what? It fees good! Good luck in your endeavors.

  23. It’s so wonderful that you write everyday. I do something creative everyday, whether its writing, drawing, etc. but not necessarily the same thing. You pose a lovely question.

Love to hear your comments.

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