“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” – Malcolm Gladwell, OUTLIERS.
Creating something from nothing is 100% magic. One simply has to employ the fruits of the innate gift handed down from the creativity gods. Simply grab a pen and paper, find an inspirational environment, hit the creativity switch, and wait for the muse to arrive. Simple.
Creative work is a doing thing. It’s work. Sometimes hard, hard, hard work but most of the time it’s rewarding work. We are wired to create. The reality, however, is it’s not magic. It’s work. Three steps that are often listed as the way to becoming a better creative are study, practice, and feedback.
Did someone say, “Practice?”
The memory of NBA superstar Allen Iverson’s 2002 press conference popped into my head when I thought of the word “practice”. AI’s rant on practice is a favorite and often repeated saying at the Hays House.
And since creative work is a doing thing, transformation only comes from doing the thing. Whether you’re seven working on your first creation or seventy and writing a family history, doing the work to do better work is important. Sorry AI, but practice is at the core of elevating the skills.
Despite what AI might have thought back in the day, practice matters.
It’s early March 2022. Spring training time for us writers and creators (and hopefully, soon for the Major League Baseball players and coaches.) Time to take a critical look at how we treat our craft and produce our creative work. Time to evaluate how we practice and then tweak or adjust the routine as needed to take our work to another level.
It’s time to analyze how to improve and get better. Creative work is a constant move forward. Here are a few tips for better practice that I’m going to incorporate into my 2022.
Practice with a Purpose
There’s so much awesome in this video excerpt from sketchnote expert Eva Lotta Lamm’s Pragmatic Sketching Masterclass.
Video Link: Eva Lotta Lamm: How to Practice Effectively
The value of a regular and deliberate practice is transformative. Keep in mind the performance and enter into the practice with expectations.
- The doing.
- What’s going on.
- Notice what’s happening instead of judging what’s happening.
I’m a former strength and conditioning coach. I’m also a fan of a power training guru named Marty Gallagher. I first became aware of Mr. Gallagher after reading his essay with its nod to The Band, Fitness From the Big Pink. What I’ve liked about his training philosophy is it’s a simple, multi-faceted approach to physical and mental transformation.
According to Coach Gallagher, “Your fitness efforts fail because you are one dimensional in a four-dimensional universe.”
This is also true for creative efforts. One-dimensional creative practice often results in the creator hitting a rut and losing enthusiasm. Trying a variety of activities can unlock creative growth and transformation in the desired skill or in a completely different direction. Try something new when you feel your practice hitting a rut. Transform.
Creative practice is eerily similar to physical training. A multi-faceted, well-balanced approach to any form of training is a great plan of attack for improving skills. Marty Gallagher’s balanced approach for transformational training includes progressive resistance training, cardiovascular training, nutrition, and brain-train. Creative training might include drawing, poetry, meditation, music, or free-writing. The sky’s the limit here.
Try new things. Perform them badly. Fail. Practice. Try again. Transform.
As Marty Gallagher said, “With practice, tangible gains generate enthusiasm and enthusiasm causes the trainee to redouble their effort.”
People often freak out about the blank page. It is intimidating. This intimidation ingrained in us since most of us were kids stems from the idea of the blank page will be eventually graded AND should strive for perfection. We should be thinking instead of a blank page as an invitation to make something instead of an assignment.
Practice is an invitation to transform the empty space in front of us with the contents of our creative brain. Instead of a place to make mistakes, we should treat the blank space as a place to make things happen.
No right. No wrong. Just a formerly blank page that is now alive with ideas.
Just Do It!
The most important thing about practicing and training your creative self is that you do it. That’s the process. One word, one mark, or one idea at a time moving forward towards transformation.
As a sign from the creative universe that this was the right topic for my post, this was in the weekly newsletter for an online drawing class I’m taking.
“You will find that, without exception, practice will reward you, so be brave, be committed, keep putting your pencil to paper and you will be pleasantly surprised.” – Drawing Nature, Science and Culture: Natural History Illustration 101 weekly course newsletter (3/2/2022).
Happy Spring Training!
Be brave. Be committed. Keep putting your pencil to paper.
Do the work. Enjoy the ride.
You will be pleasantly surprised.