Michelle Barker's books on Goodreads
Old Growth, Clear-Cut: Poems of Haida Gwaii Old Growth, Clear-Cut: Poems of Haida Gwaii
ratings: 1 (avg rating 5.00)

The Beggar King The Beggar King
reviews: 8
ratings: 21 (avg rating 4.00)

Tesseracts 14: Strange Canadian Stories Tesseracts 14: Strange Canadian Stories
reviews: 4
ratings: 15 (avg rating 4.07)

Tesseracts Fifteen: A Case of Quite Curious Tales Tesseracts Fifteen: A Case of Quite Curious Tales
reviews: 4
ratings: 14 (avg rating 3.79)

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Practice Makes…a First Draft


The Daily Practice of Writing

My son went to his first swim meet this weekend. Many of the swimmers were wearing team shirts with motivational quotes on them, and two stuck in my mind. One was a quote from Robert Collier that read: “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” The other was an anonymous quote: “There is no glory in practice, but without practice, there is no glory.”
The quotes referred to swimming, but they could just as easily have been talking about writing; that daily, sometimes dull practice of applying butt to chair and working it through.

There is something to be said for a daily writing practice, especially if you’re tracking that mammoth creature, the novel. In his book, On Writing,Stephen King admits he doesn’t take days off – not Sundays, not even Christmas. I’m beginning to understand why. Spending at least a half hour every day working on your novel is almost like raising its metabolism. Even when you do other things for the rest of your day, it’s still there – however you want to think of it: simmering on the backburner, burning calories, producing new ideas.

Take a week off in the middle of a draft and you imagine you’d come back fresh. No, more like confused. What was I planning to do with that plotline again? Is George an only child, or does he have siblings? And where did this character come from? I don’t remember him.
In fact, a daily practice is valuable not only for the novel, but for any kind of creative writing. I once embarked on a project in which I decided to write a poem a day for a year. I gave myself permission to write crap – and, as it turns out, many of the poems were pretty crappy. But there had to be one in my notebook, somehow, by the end of every day. I didn’t quite make it to 365 – I think it was more like 340. But I learned a few things from that project, one of which is that when you prime the creative pump, the words will eventually flow.
So how does one find the time to work every day? There are several approaches. Get up earlier every morning. Consecrate half of your lunch hour to writing. Turn off the TV. According to Eckhart Tolle, the average American will have spent 15 years in front of the television by the time he/she is 60 years old. That is a frightening thought. Imagine what you could do with that extra time.
Try to make one definite move every day towards writing – a commitment of half an hour, 350 words, whatever you can handle. That small step repeated daily will eventually win you a completed first draft.