Sunday, May 16, 2010

Does Practice Make Perfect--Or Even Contribute Significantly to Your Writing Goals?

It's gardening time in New England--despite the 20 degree weather we had last week that left my kale seedlings gasping--and I'm spending a lot of time out there. Soon my weekly teaching schedule will pick up again, leaving me little time to sit in the sun, so I'm getting my fingernails filthy now.

Gardening for me is a lot like writing. Both take tons of practice, trial and error, failure and misery. Both have some magnificent moments. If you're not into gardening, forgive this analogy, but for me plants and soil have taught me a lot about the practice of writing. The patience I need, the forgiveness of my own big bloopers, the times when I want to chuck it all and go work at McDonalds (not really).

I began gardening because three of my grandparents had the bug. My grandfather lived in Nyack, NY, right on the Hudson and he grew raspberry bushes and roses in a boxwood maze and flowers I could never hope to identify. We were both early risers. When I would visit, I could peer out my dormer window from bed and see him walking in the garden, so I'd get dressed fast and go out to join him. The raspberries were his precious spot. He pondered them like I ponder a chapter, scene, character.

My grandfather taught me to go slow with creating. It worked well to put in time, both fingernail filthy time (digging into the soil, feeling it, working it with your hands) and pondering time.

So that leads us to this week's topic: practice. Does it really make writing perfect? How does it contribute to real writing goals?