The other day, Suzanne LaGrande, one of the members of my weekly critique group, was talking to me about intentional practice - practicing the writing craft the way an athlete practices. If I'm lucky, maybe she'll do a guest post about this topic.
Athletes don't just play their sport during practice; they focus on specific elements and skills. I paddle with a dragon boat team (Go, Mighty Women!). Our goal is to finish the race first, or at least to beat our best time. But to accomplish that, we work on our technique.
So, when I sit down to write, my goal might be "to write 1000 words" or "to write for one hour" or "to finish this scene." But that's not enough. I need to think about what element of the craft I am working on.
When I conference with my third and fourth grade students, I always start with the question, "What are you working on today as a writer?" At first, they just tell me about their story. Then, I say, "What are you trying to do with that story?" or "What are your goals with that story?" Like so many of us, they often say, "To finish it" or perhaps "To make it really long" or even "To make it really good." It takes a while, but eventually they learn how to identify what element of craft they are working on. "I'm looking at dialogue." Or "I'm adding sensory details." Or "I'm trying to write a great lead."
Next time you sit down to write, conference with yourself. Move beyond, "I'm going to write this many words or pages or minutes." Ask yourself, "What are you working on as a writer today?" Identify what aspect of craft you're focused on for that writing session. Practice with intentionality.
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