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Practice Does Not Make Perfect

I’ve finished the first draft of my next manuscript. At 55k words, it’s nearly half the size of my forthcoming novel, which I hope will make the coming weeks and months of editing more manageable. (Har-har — spoiler alert — it probably won’t.)

 

I’ve been churning out novels fairly consistently for the past ten years. That’s to say, I’ve written at least one draft of a book every year or so. I was so convinced that if I simply wrote, I’d get better over time, and eventually publish something.

 

While this is my reality, my old line of thinking turned out to be completely wrong.

 

Back in my creative agency days, the agency partners hired a personal coach to chat with the creatives. He said something that resonated deeply with me, and that was: “Practice does not make perfect.” Sounds counterintuitive at first.


But I could try to teach myself piano and show virtually no progress after months. Or I could sketch my goldfish every day and show no notable signs of improvement. Because practice doesn’t make perfect. At worse, it reinforces certain errors and weaknesses in our work. Errors and weaknesses we may or may not be aware of.

 

So, writing alone was not enough. Hell, even reading more didn’t help me hone my craft by any significant measure.

 

What the personal coach said was that, “Perfect practice makes perfect.”

 

It wasn’t until I began submitting aggressively to magazines and critiquing the work of others with a strategic eye that I figured out what I needed to do differently to approach more perfect, professional-quality work.

 

After college, my writing had plateaued. I often worried if I had unknowingly written my best work, if everything I wrote in the future would be a shadow of my true potential. I watched people around me grow old and dull, and wondered if human imagination itself withered and wrinkled like aging skin. This was enough to make me write faster — write like I was running out of time — yet still, it was not enough to make me a better writer. I was not enough.

 

As I begin thinking about revisions to my new book, I can say with confidence that I’ve developed skills I had not possessed two or more years ago that will allow me to get this new book published.

 

So, what’s the new book about? I’ll share at a later date, when I have a draft that’s in a more perfect state.

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