Thirty Days

Photo by Sandy Lawson
Photo by Sandy Lawson

Further on the subject of practice. It may not necessarily make perfect (although a cat practicing the art of sleeping does appear to reach perfection), but practice does make better. And more practice makes better faster. That was, more or less, my daughter’s conclusion after completing an assignment for her high-school sociology class, which required her to do something for thirty days. She chose to play the piano. (She’s been taking lessons since the first grade, twelve years. She’s pretty good.) When the thirty days were up and she wrote about the experience, she commented on how much better she got playing the various pieces she was working on. That wasn’t surprising, but what struck me as I read her paper was that she improved so quickly.

This was an aspect of “practice makes perfect” that I hadn’t considered. I regret, constantly, that I don’t write every day—and I have all the usual excuses about not having enough time, day after day. Obviously, when you’re writing a book, if you write once a day as opposed to once a week, you’ll finish the book sooner. More than that, though, if you work on that book every day as opposed to every several days, chances are that, overall, what you write will be of a better quality.

This is what my daughter noticed. If she was having a problem with a certain piece—say Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag—and worked out a solution on Monday, if she didn’t play the piece again until Thursday, she might not immediately remember her solution. If she played it again the next day, she did remember and got better faster.

Same with writing. You figure out a thorny issue of character motivation on Friday and don’t return to the book until the next Wednesday. You might be unclear about what that brilliant epiphany was and how you were going to use it.

So let’s expand on “practice makes perfect.” Think instead, “constant practice makes better faster.” With this in mind, I challenged the students in my Newburyport class to write every day for thirty days. Even if it’s just five minutes while waiting for the coffee to brew. Even if it’s simply jotting down the bizarre dream from the night before. Even if it’s a one-page rant that begins, “So my writing teacher seriously wants me to write every day?”

I took the challenge too. So far, so good. I mean, this blog post counts, right?

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4 thoughts on “Thirty Days”

  1. Of course the blog counts. Maybe I should try it–or practice Italian for 30 days or eat less. Would that count? Interesting and seems logical.

  2. It all comes down to discipline I suppose. And perhaps a bit of testing ourselves to see if what we think we need or want to do is really what we are prepared to do. I can think about the things I am tempted to do for 30 days, even if it requires only 5 minutes per day to “count”, but what stops me is confronting that part of me that doesn’t want to get my feet wet. Yet, that very hesitation should alert me to the fact that I’m not getting out there and growing, living, experiencing.

    So, thanks for the post. It has pushed me one step closer to stepping out.

  3. Yes. The blog counts!
    For me, not writing all comes down to laziness. I am taking your 30 day challenge. Today is Day 1.

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In which I blog about the days I write and the days I don’t write; about teaching about writing; about reading (which is never enough); and occasionally about music, because sometimes a three-minute song can tell as good a story as a novel.

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