Workable #14: What Counts as "Practice"?

You set aside the time each day. What does it look like to practice your art?

Workable #14: What Counts as "Practice"?
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters / Unsplash

Last week, I asked this question:

What do you consider part of your practice?

This, obviously, varies from discipline to discipline, but I thought I'd share with you what I consider part of my practice as a writer. It's really pretty simple:


Any writing I do — not counting writing emails and such — counts as writing practice. For me, this comes in a few different forms:

  1. Daily Journaling. I'm a fan of morning pages. I've written about them here and here and here. Every morning, I wake up and write three pages. It comes shortly after my morning meditation session and my first sip of coffee. This is the most important part of my practice. I get ideas out. Sometimes, those ideas are related to my writing project. Sometimes, those ideas are just various rants and ravings. Sometimes, I just write prayers and meditations over and over again. It gets the pen moving.
  2. Drafting & Notes. Each day, I try to spend some time either drafting (i.e., actually working on the manuscript) or taking notes on my writing project. For my current novel (you can read all about it over at (Re:)write), this includes taking notes, rewriting scenes, drafting new scenes, thinking about how to solve problems in the manuscript. I use a hack from Neil Gaiman for this: set aside time and do nothing else with that time. You either write or stare at the wall. (I'll write about this another time.)  
  3. Zettelkasten. Every day, I find one new thing to learn about writing and I record it with a note style called zettelkasten.  (At some point, I may share this as a digital garden, but not today. To be honest, this is a newer part of my practice, but I'm loving it.)
I went to a Renwick Gallery in DC during lunch time and was excited about the stacks of paper that was used to create a huge mountain. This shot was exceptionally intriguing to me since it allows you to describe the image however you like.
Photo by Christa Dodoo / Unsplash

The key here, really, is that I set aside time every day to accomplish these things. Sometimes, I get it done in the morning (I wake up at about 5:15 a.m.), but other times I wait until my son is in bed (around 9:00 p.m.). It doesn't have to be the exact same routine.

Think about it: if you grew up playing a sport, was every practice exactly the same? If you're an actor, does every rehearsal for a play look exactly the same?

No. You might have pieces — e.g., a warm-up — that you do each time. I consider this an on-ramp to the rest of practice. For me, morning pages serve as that on-ramp: it sets me up to think about writing for the rest of my day.

Now, then, I bounce the question back to you: What does your practice look like?

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