Practice Makes Perfect! (And GIVEAWAY!)

I had an epiphany the other day. One of those light bulb moments that made me stop and go, “Wow! What a great way of looking at things!”

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, trying to avoid cleaning and packing for our big move, when I came across a post from one of my favorite “gurus,” John Asseraf. He describes himself as “a spiritual entrepreneur, philanthropist and teacher with an insatiable passion for brain research, quantum physics and helping others achieve and live their ideal life.” He’s written many NY Times Best Selling books, and it’s just inspiring to read his posts or watch him speak.

So, naturally, when I came across a post of his, I stopped to read it.

I love watching the Olympics. Getting to see these athletes get to compete after years of training is so powerful for me as a metaphor re what it takes to be the top or one of the best in your field. What amount of practice do you do to prepare to be your best? These Athletes are a great reminder for me.

Great, right? But I didn’t think too much of it. Not until I scrolled through the comments and saw this one from one of his followers:

John, the one thing that I like about your post is that you mention the ‘…amount of practice’ as opposed to the amount of ‘hard work’ it takes to be the best. This may just seem like a play on words but really, if it’s your dream to become the best at your passion, it’s no longer work. When I watch all those brilliant athletes, I see ppl who have identified their dreams and that, to me, is an achievement in itself…

Boy, is that a fantastic way of breaking things down?

Now, I come from a mindset already of “Work smarter, not harder.” I’ve always eschewed the idea of “Work hard, play hard.” And I certainly don’t believe that a person’s income is or has to be directly related to the amount of “hard work” they put in.

But still, there have been plenty of days when pumping out a couple pages of my manuscript felt like grueling work! That’s right. Not just hard work…grueling work!

Part of this comes as a result of the pressure of wanting to earn money at what I do. And oftentimes, that takes the fun out of things.

I remember as a young girl and a teenager that I would spend countless hours in my room singing, dancing, rehearsing monologues, all in preparation to be a big Broadway star. But as soon as graduating college became contingent on my doing those things, and eventually paying the bills, as well…well, it became work. In my mind, when I rehearsed a monologue, it wasn’t just to satisfy my own burning desire to learn and perform, it was to get a very important piece of paper from the Manhattan School of Music. When I attempted to perfect a song, it was to get a job so that I could pay my bills. And all that felt very much like work.

When I first started writing in my late 20s (having burnt out completely in the performance arena), boy, was that fun! My hubby was working long weekend hours at the time, so as soon as he would leave for the day, I would put on a frilly dress and my tiara (yes, I have a tiara!), sit down at my desk and go! Friends would call me to meet up for coffee or lunch, but I didn’t want to leave my desk. I wanted to play with my imaginary friends.

On top of that, I spent hours and hours and hours reading, researching, going to the library and the bookstore to find more reading material that involved Regency England.

I. Was. Obsessed.

And I really felt that giving back and helping others would help me hone my craft even better, so I spent even more hours critiquing manuscripts for my colleagues.

And then I got a publishing contract.

And then I had a kid.

And then I self-published some more books.

And my kid became a toddler.

And now, writing feels like a whole heck of a lot of work.

But what if I changed my perspective on it? What if I looked at my writing time as an opportunity to practice something that I truly love to do. To hone a skill, just for my own satisfaction? I’m my own boss anyway, so it’s not like I have to write to deadlines or anything. But I do have an obligation to my readers to write to the best of my ability, don’t I? So why, when I don’t have time or financial constraints, would I write for any other reason than to hone my craft and be the best I can be?

So that’s my plan. As soon as we’re settled in our new home and I’m ready to start writing again, I’m going to attempt to go about it with a different mind set. I’m going to try to recapture those early days when writing was something I was doing to fulfill my soul, not fill my bank account. And who knows, maybe that’s what it will take for me to write the “next great American novel.” πŸ™‚

So, those are my thoughts for the day…I hope they’ve been inspiring πŸ™‚ What do you think? Do you struggle with certain things because you think of them as work? Do you think a shift in your mindset regarding those things would help make them feel less arduous and more fun or satisfying?

GIVEAWAY:

Leave a relevant comment below, I’ll give you one entry in my super duper awesome giveaway! (Relevant means that comments like “Great post” or “Please enter me in the giveaway” do NOT count!)

What’s the giveaway, you ask??

Well, I have in my possession the entire DVD box set of A&E Romance Classics *gasp* *cheers* *applause* For those who aren’t sure what that entails, here are the deets:

Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice

Jane Austen’s Emma

A&E’s Original Movie Victoria & Albert

Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre

R.D. Blackmore’s Lorna Doone

Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe

and the Baroness D’Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel

But wait! There are more ways to win!! For every one of the following actions, you will get one entry in the giveaway…

Like me on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter

Like TimelessQuills on Facebook

Follow TimelessQuills on Twitter

So that makes FIVE ways to win! Good luck, everyone!! I’ll announce the winner on Monday, August 20!

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8 thoughts on “Practice Makes Perfect! (And GIVEAWAY!)

  1. Brittany says:

    I imagine that once you settle into your new home it will be a lot easier for it to be fun again instead of work. The toddler will hopefully be in preschool, you will be living in a place with a lower cost of living (even if it is marginally so, it does make a difference), and you will have a home that is bigger than a shoe box so staying in will feel less stifling and allow you the space to have fun writing again.

    Maybe take this opportunity to buy yourself a few new frilly dresses and tiaras? And Opera gloves. You need opera gloves.

    I have the same problem at my job sometimes. I love being a librarian, but sometimes I just want to hole up in my office instead of being out there and helping people. And helping people is the part of my job that I normally love the most. Sometimes I just need to remind myself of that fact.

  2. Brittany, I know you’re so right. I cannot WAIT to be settled in our new place! And I love that idea — frilly dresses and opera gloves!! Yes!

    Very interesting about being a librarian. I think that might be the case often in service jobs. I remember when I was in retail and I loved when I was asked to do back office stuff or inventory — helping people can be rewarding and fun, but it can also be a drain on you energy. I hope you can find that joy again in helping your clients πŸ™‚

  3. I so get where you are coming from. Before getting a publsihing contract writing and creating was so much fun. I had more stories running in my head than I could count. Now that publishing is a reality, there is ten times more pressure. Or at least it seems that way to me with my writing time now divided up of not just writing, but tweeting, fb, blogs, etc. I sometimes feel like I’ve lost that magic place where my characters come and visit me and keep me up all night talking, and I want it back. I really do. I love the creation of stories and letting my characters take me on a ride (because it is their story). I need to quit focusing on the money end of things, but that is nearly impossible when knowing tuition is due and things like that. I do need a new mindset to find the joy in writing again and maybe this block I am suffering from will go away.

    I am sure once you get to your new place you will be surrounded by a new energy and you will want to write. As I was writing this, I realized that change always sparks creativity energy in me. Even if it means rearranging the furniture. Things begin to feel stagnant if everything remains in one place for too long. I think I will go home and move things around in my house and see if that doesn’t stir the creative :).

  4. Great idea, Amy! Go rearrange that furniture! I used to love doing that, but most of my NY apartments haven’t allowed me to do much rearranging. When we did our stint in Atlanta, Eric would come home to a fully rearranged home ALL the time! LOL!

    But yes, I agree…social networking, blogs and all that stuff get in the way and there is DEFINITELY more pressure. But I’m hoping to put that aside and try to get back to writing because I love it! πŸ™‚ I hope you can get there too with your furniture rearrangement!

  5. Louisa says:

    Awesome post! And definitely something I needed to hear. Before I ever heard of the AvonFanLit event – which set me on this journey almost six years ago, I wrote Fan Fiction based on a character in my favorite soap opera. I wrote constantly – at work on breaks and lunch, at home, every spare minute I scribbled on a stack of loose leaf paper and then posted what I wrote on a FanFic site (GOD, I hope it no longer exists!) I look back at the things I wrote now and CRINGE! BUT, I was having fun and I wrote all the time. And my first historical romance novel was written in much the same vein. However, the more it became about getting an agent, getting a contract, writing THE book to get the attention of some all-powerful being who could change my life the more difficult it became. And for some reason the closer I get to writing THE ONE, the harder it gets. I have been contemplating that lately and I realize you are absolutely right. I need to do this because I want to, because I love my characters so much I have to tell their story. There are so many story ideas running around in my head and I keep thinking if I don’t write these stories no one will. There is a famous quote. I can’t remember who said it. “What you give to yourself dies with you. What you give to others lives forever.” Our stories are gifts we are meant to share. And sharing is supposed to be fun! (Or so my mother always said!)

  6. LOL! My 2-year-old would probably put up an argument regarding sharing. Ha! But you’re right — and I LOVE that quote! These stories inside of us are meant to be shared — whether with one or two people, or hundreds of thousands — and we should most certainly have fun pumping them out πŸ™‚

    Thanks so much for stopping by, Louisa!

  7. Rose Gordon says:

    I have to admit, similar to you, Amy and Louisa; I feel the writing squeeze, too. I can tell the difference between the books I wrote when I was having fun writing and the ones I wrote while under pressure. As Amy mentioned, sometimes the cold reality of the financial side of things comes into play. My husband left his job last fall to return to school and my kids have to attend a special (private) school. So some months when I notice my books aren’t selling as well as they did a few weeks/months ago I feel that, “I MUST get this book done” pressure and that not only makes it more difficult to write but sucks the fun right out of writing and in my opinion makes the book less fun to read.

    There’s other pressure, too, as I’d consider myself now a mid-list author with eight books out and one coming soon, I have that pressure of holding up expectations. I have people who’ve followed me since the beginning and expect that with each book my stories will get better and better (as well as my writing). This is hard because if they don’t like it as much as the book before, you feel like you’ve let them down (and surprisingly, many aren’t afraid to let you know they liked this and this, but hated your latest).

    One thing I’ve found is when it feels like the pressure is getting me and I’m on the brink of rushing the story, is to take a few days off from writing and find something else to do. Characters don’t like to be ignored almost as much as they don’t like to be put in a box, so it won’t take long before they’re niggling in the back of your mind again, demanding you write their story, their way.

    Good luck with your move. Hopefully by the time you get there and get settled your characters will be so tired of being put on hold they’ll be willing to let you write their story.

  8. Rose, that’s SO true! Neglecting our characters is a surefire way to get them to talk to us. Reverse psychology, I guess?? LOL! As a matter of fact, a few of them have already started to niggle and I’ve had to shut them up REALLY fast! Ha! So, I do have confidence that I’ll fall back into the swing of things once we’re settled πŸ™‚

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