Let’s Get It Started: Deliberate Practice

17 11 2008

I’ve been freelancing full time for three months now, and I realize that not only am I sometimes struggling to complete my assignments, it’s taking me too long to complete them, and subsequently, I’m losing money. In an effort to become a faster, more focused writer, I’m implementing the deliberate practice schedule outlined below.

What’s ‘deliberate practice‘? You’ll be glad you asked. According to “What It Takes to be Great” (Fortune, October 2006), it’s the hours of intensive, daily practice based on more and more challenging benchmarks that make great athletes, business people, and musicians, well, great. While I’ll settle for good right now, my eyes are set on greatness–eventually. 

What will I write about? To quote The Daily Show’s Senior Black Correspondent, Larry Wilmore, “Whatever I want” (skip to 31:18 of TDS‘s election coverage for two minutes of Black-on-Black hilarity). My entries might be based on an articles I’ve read, the new furniture in my Animal Crossing house, or a writing exercise from my favorite writing books, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg or Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. 

Why am I telling you all this? First of all, I would be embarrassed as hell to put all this out here, send it to everyone on my contact list and not follow through. That’s a lot of social pressure and it would be a shame not to live up to my word. Also, I’m giving folks free license to berate or gently nudge me if I don’t post consistently. I don’t give away ‘Yell at me for free’ cards often, so take advantage.

This schedule is what my former colleagues from TNTP would call a living document,  so depending on how quickly things progress during the first few months, my goals may become more ambitious. 

I encourage anyone out there to join the Writer’s Challenge and to post your writing here or to post a link to your writing on your own blog. Maybe I can get enough people here to create a virtual writing group. 

Here’s the schedule: 

Month one: Write 500 words a day. It doesn’t matter how long it takes or what it’s about, just write 500 words a day in one sitting. And it doesn’t have to be 500 words of quality writing. Complete and utter crap counts, too. The goal is simply to write.

Month two: Write 500 words in one hour. Again, crap counts here. Just get your crap out faster.

Month three: Write a 500-word story with an outline in 45 minutes. Here’s were we begin to focus. Think about what you want to write, at least three key points, plan them out, and get writing. Fast.

Month four: Write a 600-word story with an outline in 30 minutes. Aww, sookie-sookie, now. It’s going to get tough here, but this is also where you begin to get exponentially better.

Month five: Research, outline and write an 800-word story in 45 minutes. Are you still with me here? It’s painful, but it’ll be worth it in the end.

Month six: Outline and write 1200-word story in an hour. Now we’re cooking with gas! Keep it up!

Month seven: Research, outline and write a 1200-word story and three, 200-word blurbs in one our and 45 minutes. Say what?! Yes, a 1200-word story AND three blurbs. This is going to take forethought. Think about what you’re going to write about the night before. Find some news stories, either on TV, the web, or in the paper to base your blurbs on. Way to go for learning to juggle multiple assignments!

Month eight: Research, outline and write a 1200- to 1600-word four-part series. I’ll work on each part of the story for a week and the resulting pieces will be published here at the start of each week.

My goal is to post each exercise by noon EST each day. I look forward to posting my writing, hearing your feedback (or reading your nudges and sometimes, gut punches), and to possibly reading your work, too.

So there they are, my first 680-some odd words. Have you made friends with 500 words today?

Happy writing!





5 responses

17 11 2008

Interesting stuff – sounds a definite plan.

I love seeing other peoples’ plans but hate making my own – the moment I miss a target I yell

“That’s it computer, I knew I couldn’t do it. You knew it too, you smug electronic – ”

– and then I don’t curse; I relax and set about writing my new, completely unconnected targets.

17 11 2008

Thanks for your comment, Rick.

I’m actually the first person to chuck a plan, usually because I haven’t figured out the point of doing what I plan to do. I make a plan made up of what to do, but never explore the why. It will definitely be hard, but I really do think it’s worth it in the end.

17 11 2008

I think this a great idea! My struggle ebbs and flows. Some days I’m “feeling it” and churning out work (great work) faster than a locomotive. Other days, I struggle to find my voice and fight with writer’s block for hours.

I probably need to engage in this challenge just for consistency-sake. When others are dependent upon your work, they can’t wait for you to have an “on” day.

This type of focus is just what I need. Too bad they don’t limit the topics or choose one for you. That’s central to my problem. It’s not that I don’t feel up to writing on those “off” days, it’s just that I don’t feel like writing about the topic that’s required.

What can I say? I’m an only child, right-brain-leaning, march to my own drum person who fights the constraints of a box.

And the longer I spend time in this comment box instead of on work, I’m make my problem worse.

On the challenge!

17 11 2008

LMAaron, a writer , editor and now blogger! Great job – keep up the awesome work! Now you have a number of accountability partners to accomplish your professional goals.

18 11 2008
Allissa Hosten

Teedy! I like this idea. I am going to write every evening, at 6 pm. I think your word count goals are very ambitious, but looking at this like exercise is probably what needs to happen. I am so glad you turned our dinner convo into an action item. Through you, I am learning there is joy to following up on what you say you will do.

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