Take Five: #21 of 30: The art of practice

Take Five
Five-minute reads about writing
Nov. 3 - Nov. 30, 2010

Courtesy: Sasha Soren (Random Magic)
Twitter: @RandomMagicTour

#21 of 30: The art of practice 

Let’s say that your goal is to become a marvelous writer. Or a brilliant violinist. Or a world-class ballerina. Or a medical specialist. Or an astrophysicist. 

Now, even though these professions seemingly have very little in common, they actually do have one very important thing in common.

You can have an innate talent in something. And you should be very grateful, every day, that you have that gift, because it is a gift.

It’s not something you earned, but something that was given to you, just the same way you might happen to receive blue eyes, or dark hair, or double-jointed thumbs, or perfect pitch.

But talent, alone, won’t get you anywhere. It’s not sufficient, in and of itself.

If you have the innate talent to one day be a brilliant violinist, then you can eventually become a brilliant violinist. In the meantime, you practice every day.

Shown above: Ninja skills don't happen overnight

You do scales, and drills, and learn music theory, and listen to every violin recording you can get your hands on.

If your fingers start bleeding because you’ve been practicing the same scale for five hours in a row, you continue to play, anyway.

If you’re sick and don’t feel like practicing, you practice, anyway.

If there’s a huge party and you’d rather party than practice, but you have to choose between them, you choose to practice.

If you don’t have money for violin lessons, you figure it out on your own, but you continue to practice.

If you’re so tired from working two or three jobs that your eyes are crossing and all you want to do is sleep, you give yourself a good pinch, and pick up that violin.

If you’re bored out of your mind doing the same drill over and over and can’t stand the sight of your violin and all you want to do it smash it against the nearest tree, you shut up and pick it up and practice anyway.

If your house burns to the ground and the world simultaneously comes to an end, you have a bit of a freak-out, sort things out, then get right back to your drills.

Eventually, in maybe a decade or so of steady commitment, you might really have something. But there’s no shortcut. You have to put in the time.

So, in effect, if you’re wondering what the best way is to learn how to write, the answer is: You write.

There’s no skimping, and no easy way to do it. You have to stick to it like you've never stuck to anything else in your life. That’s what mastering any creative skill demands of you.

If you're not willing to dedicate several years of your life to mastering a particular art, that's fine. Surely that'll be a lot easier on you.

On the other hand, you'll also be missing out on all the beauty you can create, as well. You'll be missing out on the chance to make people laugh, or cry, or to be moved, or to just enjoy themselves.

Mastery of a particular art is a particular kind of power -- not to rule people, but to move them, to improve their lives, to make them happy, to give them something to think about, something to talk about, to create a moment of beauty in an otherwise drab and ordinary day.

It's the closest thing to everyday magic that you'll ever experience. But there's only one way to acquire that particular gift, if you really want it.

If you've already come this far in the Take Five series, it's likely you have a crucial character trait that Thomas Alva Edison, a contemporary of eccentric but ingenious inventor Nikola Tesla, defined as 'stick-to-it-iveness.' That's a very good sign, indeed.

Now. From the top...

From author interview with Sasha Soren.
Interviewer: Well-Read Reviews (@wellreadreviews)

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