Writing Practice

In her wonderful book, Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg suggests that for the writer, a daily practice of writing is similar to meditation.  She stresses the act of writing longhand, as a sort of limbering up prior to your ‘real’ writing session for the day.   She suggests timed writing exercises written as quickly as possible in a spiral-bound notebook as a daily warm-up exercise.  Simply write as quickly as you can for 10 minutes; on any topic, or, if getting started is a problem, something like your favorite meal or family idioms or what’s going on around you, or the funniest story you ever heard.  
She also suggests changing your scenery regularly, and often meets friends to share timed writing experiences in cafés, parks, each other’s homes, or other locations.  After a timed writing session, her writing partners each read what they’ve written aloud, and no one can comment yay or nay; the purpose is not to critique, but merely share what was going on in each writer’s head at that particular moment.  Only after everyone has read their stuff are people allowed to comment on other writer’s passages which were especially strong or moving. 

One of her points is that if you look at ‘practice’ writing as a prelim for the ‘real’ stuff, the pressure is off while you practice.  Even with your ‘practice’ writing, you will (at times) produce good, powerful, magical prose.  You will hear it in other authors work, and you will get positive feedback from them when they hear it in yours.  As you get more of this low-stress practice and feedback under your belt, and more experience writing in different times, conditions, and locations, eventually, your ‘practice’ writing will become stronger, and leak into your ‘real’ writing projects.  You will learn what works, and begin to trust your own inner voice about what is ‘good’.  Goldman says her ‘practice’ goal is to fill one 70-page spiral-bound notebook each month.  A little more than two pages per day. 
I love this idea.  I started doing it this week.  On the second day, I ended up with the first draft of a short story.  It didn’t start out to be a short story (it had started out as a character interview), but I got carried away.  Two days later, I had a good start on another story.  All this in the middle of selling my house and packing and moving to another state in less than three weeks.  Rather than trying to come up with a big story idea, I just allowed myself to write; to let my hand move across the page 10 minutes.  The objective here is to keep you hand moving, not to think. 
Think you don’t have time to write?  I’ll bet you can find 10 minutes every day to practice. 
This entry was posted in longhand, Natalie Goldberg, practice, time writing practice, write every day, writers write, Writing Down the Bones. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.