Practice does not make perfect…

…but who wants perfection as a writer anyway? Once you’ve attained perfection there’s nothing left to do.
Plus, perfection is entirely subjective anyhow.
But practice is definitely necessary.
And being out of practice is definitely painful.
Case in point I recently headed back to the boxing gym after a hiatus of about 8 years.
By boxing gym, I mean down in the basement where I have a heavy bag, double-ended bag, and a speed bag all nicely mounted on the ceiling. And a variety of bag gloves depending on my mood. My favorite ones have weights in the wrist bands and are black and white but I think I’ll have to work up to them.
By hiatus I mean, I had kids.
I worked out for about 40 minutes. I even, after a few false starts, found my rhythm on the speed bag again. Right hand-tap, left hand-tap (repeat), and I could still sit on the wall while I re-wrapped my hand bandages, something which produces major thigh muscle burn. I think I landed most of my punches well, and I worked my jab, my hook, my left and managed about a minute of the 2 minute drill which isn’t so bad.
2 minute drill is a KILLER!
I feel lucky because my body remembered the stances, the correct method of punching to minimize injury, and I got to fall under the spell of my gloves thudding into leather, the rhythmic slap of jump rope against concrete, the creak of the bag swinging on its chain. It’s like poetry.
Tomorrow I’ll be lucky if I can lift my coffee mug to my lips.
I already know I will be sore.
But I have ibuprofen and foreknowledge so I hope it’s not so bad as to make going back to the gym impossible on Thursday.
If I had not lapsed I would not face the pain.
And it’s the same with writing.
To write with any kind of purpose and longevity you have to make it part of your routine. The same way boxing was part of my every day life.
It doesn’t matter how many words you get down. It doesn’t matter if they suck. Or how much time you spend staring off into the distance. Or even how much time you waste on Twitter or other fun online activities. Writing is lonely and everyone needs companionship.
As long as your body gets used to sitting in front of that screen/notebook/typewriter every day, and your fingers stay limber.
I try to reach 1000 words a day when I’m seriously working on a manuscript. Sometimes I go over. I certainly do much more than that in the revision process but that is usually measured in hours – as in sitting in front of the computer for 8, 10, 12, 14 hours.
I find that when I’ve taken a break- like during the recent holidays- it takes me a few days to get back into the swing. This used to cause me much anxiety and large doses of guilt, but you know what? It doesn’t matter and guilt is stupid.
If I added up all the hours I spent working, all the minutes I spent thinking about my book, I’d discover that I work all the time. Even when I’m not consciously working.
So if I need a week or two to revisit the entire Buffy series on dvd, I will take that time. And I will escape into someone else’s world for a change and come back to my own, refreshed and maybe even inspired.
And sure I might be stiff at first, and it could be painful, but sooner or later I’ll remember exactly what to do.

3 thoughts on “Practice does not make perfect…

  1. You’re right of course – and I’m supposed to be back at the gym tomorrow for the first time in months! Not that I’m doing any boxing, I hasten to add. Just regular exercise bikes and stretches and stuff. But the writing – I’m currently swimming in guilt for NOT GETTING DOWN TO IT – yet truly, I’ve had very little time.

    So your post is opportune and helpful!

    1. You absolutely must not beat yourself up about not getting down to it, Kath. And I am very sure, in any case, that you deserve a break. Most writers I know work their asses off.

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