Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect

Great Writers PracticeThis is Day 4 in the Great Writers Series. Follow along on Facebook for additional resources and discussion.

Real writers practice. They show up, every day, without excuse or complaint (okay maybe some complaint). This is the work of a professional.

I’m not talking about rehearsal. I’m talking about doing what musicians and boxers and lion tamers all do in order to get ready for their work. To become awesome at their crafts.

They practice in public

In other words, they perform. They go to work. Get stuff done. They stop stalling and playing around and actually do the stuff.

Writing should be no different. You should be no different.

Okay, this is it. No more dress rehearsals or dialogue. No more coffee dates to commiserate with your peers. Enough talking; start doing.

Time to get to work. Show us what you got.

The challenge

Find a way to practice in public. Here are a few ideas:

  • Pitch a magazine you want to write for. Follow some of the templates in You Are a Writer. This article might help, too.
  • Ask a friend (or stranger) to guest post on his/her blog. Here’s another useful post.
  • Publish something on your blog you’ve never shared with anyone. Take a risk (we’ll be doing more of this soon).
  • Submit that book proposal. Don’t “work on it.” Finish it. Send it off. And say a little prayer.

Whatever you do, don’t do nothing

I know that’s a double negative, but it’s worth breaking a rule for. Nothing is the worst thing you can do. Because it’s passive. And writing is active. It requires your fully conscious self. You need to show up and show us your gift.

Until you do that, you’re just practicing in private. Playing around. Kidding yourself. Don’t do that. It’s time to put your work out there — not because you’ll succeed. Quite the opposite, in fact. You’ll probably fail. And in the failure you can learn.

So do it. Now. Today. Fail fast, and then tell us what you learned. This will be messy, no question about it. That’s okay. Because practice doesn’t make perfect; practice makes habits.

Bonus tool: If you need some help putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard), grab this writing worksheet with six exercises to help you.

What does practice look like for you? Share in the comments.

268 thoughts on “Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect

  1. Better than Christmas. I woke up this morning to find someone had read and responded to my first, ever, blog post. Wish I had a prize to give her for being #1. I’m still flying high. 

    Thanks Jeff for making this possible. 

  2. I have been lucky enough to have one of my favorite authors also become a writing mentor to me. I decided to be brave, and “practice” by sending her an excerpt of my writing. Not to critique or edit, but merely as a gift. Which meant that I had to have enough confidence that my writing was worth calling a “gift” to someone. Talk about scary. I had previously decided against it, but this week motivated me to just do it. I wrapped it in a bow :0)

  3. My risk was to submit a short story to a writing contest. I just sent it in, and while I’m still scared, I’m glad I did it. I don’t know what will come of that (and won’t until August), but it’s in. 🙂

  4. Jeff, I spent the better part of the weekend avoiding your challenge.   Then I read your post about writing something dangerous, and I realized that I have been avoiding these questions long before you asked them.  My dangerous (vulnerable) act was to post a letter that I had written to myself several years ago.  Now, I’m ready for Day 5!  Bring it on!! 

  5. This challenge is….challenging! I got so excited to contact a friend about guest posting on her blog & after I typed it, I thought of so many reasons why she wouldn’t care about what I had to say and I wouldn’t be able to post something great for her readers! Usually, in those situations I make it sound like “you probably don’t want me to do this, but just in case you do….blah blah blah,” but this time I posted confidently and expectantly. It was scary but I hit send! 😉 

  6. I have discovered this week that if I have a market in mind to submit to, my stories, poems, articles, etc actually come out better. I am doing this “30 Submissions or Queries in 30 Days” Challenge (something I like to do now and then) and I’ve been more productive over the past five days that I have in 6 months of “practicing”. For me, the promise of making a submission is highly motivating and stimulates creativity. Most “practice writing exercises” I do yield crap. 

  7. I woke early to write this morning. I began my day not straight with writing, but with devotional reading – I’m not going to change that habit – then entered directly into an hour of writing. I thought I was writing for myself, but when I read today’s exercise, I realized I only needed to do a little clean up work to turn it into a blog post of ~500 words. I also sent email off to two persons in my network who can help connect me with others who will publish my writings to a larger audience.

  8. I’m putting into practice by launching an entirely new personal blog about becoming a stepfather to who I call the “Instakid” 😀

    It’s an idea I’ve been kicking around for over a year, so I’m using the 15 day challenge as a reason to get off my butt and start actually creating something for it!

  9. This is amazing! I just started reading these daily posts today. I’m a little overwhelmed and excited at the same time.

    I’ve had a blog for three years but, for some reason, I stopped posting on it in April. I decided writing was actually taking time away from other things I wanted / needed to be doing. The funny thing is, I’ve done no writing (or much else besides work) in my “free” time since then. Your “habits” are offering me a new perspective. Thanks.

    Just a question…how does one write a book proposal? I have a novel, nearly finished, that’s been languishing on my computer for a few years. What do I do with it?

  10. “Publish something on your blog you’ve never shared with anyone.” I did this. Although I was in fear of posting a relatively activist blog post about the Philippine Independence Day (I am a Filipino), I still posted it. And it felt soooooooooo good inside. For all those who can read and understand the Filipino language, you might want to check it out. The link is below. Thanks! :)

  11. My girlfriend keeps telling me to submit an application or even just my work to the newspaper, magazine, huffpost, anything. Does anyone have any suggestions on the best place to submit articles like mine?  Along with that, why don’t I ask if anyone wants to write a guest post to my blog? I have already had one guest post the other month and another coming soon. What do you think?

  12. I’ve been following the challenge everyday, with hands sweating and heart pounding. I went public and finally started a blog. I never thought I would. I still don’t know what  I can say to raise much interest, but I am putting myself out there. There is no going back now. Thanks, Jeff, for the series on blogging, and this fifteen day challenge. I wouldn’t have done it without you!

  13. Jeff,
    I started my first flash fiction piece late Friday, but have not finished it. Over the weekend, especially Sunday & mostly MONDAY I worked on a blog post that was terribly overdue. I hoped that I would finish my fiction piece on Monday. Since Monday night, I have been very sick with my multiple sclerosis symptoms. I am catching up as I can and will let you know as I finish each project. As of today, Thurs, June 14th, I still am in a lot of nerve pain. I will finish this project; it may take me longer to do so. I didn’t say anything before, because I was doing well, & hoped my health wasn’t going to be this intrusive. This is how it it is with my writing, I have to muddle through the pain, then write again when I can.

  14. Okay, you’ve got me, Jeff! I’m going to work on a book proposal for a picture book I’ve written. Should have done it months ago, but was “too busy”. No time like the present. My first inclination is to write a blog post…now, I’ll go first to my mss and proposal first during those early hours of my day…thanks for the kick!!

  15. Practicing in public is what our band calls it! My wife the keyboardist and I were deep in the ADK and sat in with a bunch of musicians who were playing. They had never played this one before, The drummer had never heard it, I changed all the words, but somehow it came together. It goes exactly like this…

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