Monday, July 14
Do Writers Practice Their Art?
I spent the weekend at the Turner Cassity Literary Festival in Douglasville, GA, teaching a workshop on world building (A great writers’ festival, by the way, so look for it next year). Friday night, keynote speaker Stephen Corey said something—I believe he was quoting Marshall Thomas—that really stuck with me.
Other artists practice their art—musicians, dancers, painters—but what about writers? Do we practice or are we always “just writing?”
I can’t tell you the last time I wrote something that didn’t have a specific purpose. I'm either writing an article for the site, a writing book, or a novel, and the intent is always to share it or sell it.
Looking around at my fellow writers, practice seems to come in just two flavors: writing prompts found online or during workshops, and our early work before we’re confident enough to submit to anyone or try to sell/publish it. “Oh this?” we say. “It’s just my “practice” novel.”
(Here are more thoughts on getting back to basics in our writing)
Professional dancers still practice even when they make it to the stage. So do musicians. I guess fine artists are closer to writers, as they practice their art as they create it. Every project is practice, yet every project is also real.
I can’t help but wonder how that might affect us as artists. Does it put pressure on writers to always strive for the professional manuscript? To feel that everything we write has to be publishable? That we must turn every project into a saleable project?
(Here are more thoughts on writing as an art form)
The idea of writing a whole novel I won’t try to sell is foreign to me, but it didn’t used to be. I used to write knowing it was a practice novel for me to develop my skills. Not anymore.
I suppose a first draft could be considered practice, and the revisions are the real “writing,” but that doesn’t fit the notion of what practicing is. Even when we know that first draft will be rough, we still plan to do something will it. We didn’t write it just to sharpen our writing skills.
Or is that the key?
Every sentence we write helps us make the next sentence better. Every chapter develops our skills so the next story reads smoother. Every story makes us ponder how the world might come together so we can reach deeper and find the emotional truths we want to share.
Maybe writing is always practice because the journey never ends.
What do you guys think? Do writers practice? Should they? Or is there a point when practice becomes the art?
Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a series of self-guided workshops that help you turn your idea into a novel. It's also a great guide for revisions!
Janice Hardy is the founder of Fiction University, and the author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, where she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, (Picked as one of the 10 Books All Young Georgians Should Read, 2014) Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The first book in her Foundations of Fiction series, Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is out now.
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