Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Writerly Wednesday: Flexing the pipes

Sometimes the urge hits me like one of those itches you can't reach. When it happens, there's nothing I can do but pop some Heart or Jefferson Airplane or Lennon or Evicted into my CD player and wail along with Annie or Grace or Lennon or Danielle.

It's been that way ever since my sisters coaxed me into standing on the fireplace hearth and belting out "You Light Up My Life" to their junior high friends. (I was four.)

It's no secret that I love to sing. And (pardon me if this sounds conceited) I don't think I'm half bad.

But the urge to sing hadn't hit me in a long, long time. Honestly, the last time I really flexed the pipes was nearly a year ago when my husband and I were working on material for Black-Winged Angel.

So when I slid that Evanescence CD into my car stereo last week and tried to sing along, it sounded like a cat with its tail tangled in a serpentine belt. (Not pretty.)

Why? I hadn't practiced.

What does this have to do with Writerly Wednesday? Well, singing and writing are a lot alike in that both take practice to perfect improve. (I'm a firm believer that perfection is never attained when dealing with the arts.)

If you don't routinely work to improve your skills, your skills start slipping.

While stretching the vocal chords is simple and can be done anywhere (including in the shower and in church), spreading your writerly wings is a little more complicated. After all, sometimes you don't have access to a computer.

But not all writing practice has to be done on a keyboard.

You could:

-- Grab a pen and paper. Sometimes free writing the old-fashioned way opens doors that won't budge when you're staring at a computer screen.

-- Daydream. Seriously. Allow yourself the freedom to fall into reveries. Even the most ludicrous thoughts can turn into a fantastic scene, story or short story. (This works best for me when I'm cleaning the house or riding in a car.)

-- Grab a digital recorder (or mini cassette recorder) to capture interesting descriptions, conversations or turns of phrases that might pop into your head. Plus, you'll need something to keep track of those daydreams.

-- Read. That includes masterpieces, not-so-masterpieces, gossip rags, newspaper stories and obituaries. (You'd be surprised by the story ideas you can come up with by reading about those who've passed on.)

What about you? How do you practice your writing skills? How often do you practice? Do you set daily goals?


Crimey said...

Like you, I don't believe in the term "perfection" when dealing with arts. To practice and improve my writing, I have ventured into reading widely at the suggestion of many agents' blogs. And I see a significant change in my prose; a change that I'm very happy with.

Before I would read only thrillers and mysteries, some sci-fi. Now I'm reading a lot more literary pieces and studying the prose.

Cole Gibsen said...

Great advice!

Rosslyn Elliott said...

Great post! And you are a great singer, if the one sample I heard is any indication. I dream of a Sting jam session with you and Gwen some day. :-)

LynnRush said...

OH yeah....Great post.

I'm all for the daydream part. I seriously love to sit and just close my eyes and daydream about my characters. What they'll do, how they'll act, etc. I love doing that.

Another thing....I write EVERY day. If, for some reason, it can only be ten minutes, then so be it. But every day I am in a story of mine somehow.

Great post!!

ElanaJ said...

I love your other ideas for "practice". I also think just living is practice. Seeing how those around you react to news, situations, etc. That makes for great stuff to include when you actually do sit down to write.

arlee bird said...

Daydreaming used to be my most active writing practice, but if I didn't actually write it was not productive. My daily blog is the biggest exercise I do now. I force myself to come up with things to write about and just write. Also I comment on other blogs a lot which I find to be good practice.
Your blog looks good from what I've looked at so far.