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Posts Tagged ‘practice’

It’s early, very early. It’s Saturday and I’m up and out of the house earlier than on a weekday. There’s something inherently wrong with that statement.

The alarm went off at 5:33am although, truth be told, I was already awake. Sleeping in seems to be a figment of my younger days, like touching my toes or staying up past 11pm. I can’t seem to sleep in, even on the days my schedule allows for it, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to bitch about having to get up.

I crept out of the room as quietly as I could and snuck down the hallway to‎ where I had left my clothes the night before. This kind of thing takes planning. A quick brush of the teeth was all the grooming required. Where I was going, that kind of thing doesn’t matter.

My daughter jumped out of bed much quicker than I did, thankfully. If she didn’t want to get up this would be even more difficult.

Standing in the soft glow of the kitchen light I got her a glass of milk and started to get her dressed. The fact that my kitchen floor is covered with hockey equipment at 5:40am no longer seems strange to me.

As I help her into her chest protector it hits me that this is one of those moments. One of those things that I have done a dozen times already and will probably do a hundred times more, and yet I wonder if someday I will forget. Someday maybe this will just be a distant memory, a punchline for a dinner party story. Remember when we used to get up so early for hockey practice? Ouch, wasn’t that painful?

But I won’t remember that it was also kind of special. The silence of the morning broken only by whispers. The well choreographed dance, each of us knowing our moves and what comes next.

A quick inventory at the door confirms we have everything. Don’t forget my stick Mom, she calls as she heads out the door. Right, don’t forget the stick. And don’t forget the travel mug filled ‎with hot tea, as crucial to me as the stick is to her.

The streets are quiet. We pass house after house, each more dark than the next. I think of the two we left sleeping at home. I turn the radio up a little louder, I hear soft humming from the back seat. She informs me that she’s not tired. I smile.

And now here I sit, watching her on the ice. I don’t know where she gets the energy to do this so early in the morning. All I have to do is sit here and that is difficult enough. I sip my tea, I fix my blankets, I say good morning to the other bleary-eyes parents as they arrive. I feel like part of a secret club. She’s only fallen once so far. I can’t believe the improvement. She tries so hard and it’s paying off. I could learn a few things from her about perseverance.

The cold is starting to reach my bones now. No matter how many layers I wear or how many blankets I bring it’s always cold. I finish my tea, I look down on the ice and see her smiling at me.

I don’t wave because I know she would roll her eyes at me.

Maybe she won’t remember these mornings either. But I will try. And I will try to remind her when it was her and I and the darkness of the streetlights and our cold noses and early morning hugs.

These are the moments to remember.

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I started November with high hopes. I signed up for NaNoWriMo knowing that writing an entire novel in a single month was a bit of a pipe dream, especially on my first try, but I decided to take the plunge.

And in the beginning I did okay, I wrote 1,500 words the first day and felt a great sense of satisfaction. Then the next time I sat down to write I decided I didn’t like the first 1,500 words.  I decided that I didn’t like writing that particular story any more, so I started again. And again, and again. In total I started five different times, five different stories. If I’m being kind I could say that I’ve written five chapters; if I’m being honest I will admit that I’ve actually written five first chapters.

I don’t think I ever thought it would be easy, but I did think it would come more naturally. I thought I would sit down at the computer and the story I had roughly outlined in my head would come more fluidly. I didn’t think it would seem like work.

That was obviously completely ridiculous; but that’s what I thought.

I thought that if I was “meant” to be a novelist, it would just happen. The words would flow from my fingers, flying over the keyboard, requiring only minor edits before it would immediately be purchased, published, and on the shelves in all of its hardcover glory in time for spring.  I’m not naïve, I know this is not the way it works. In my day to day life I am nothing if not a realist, but in this case I seemingly refused to be realistic.

I felt like if it was meant to be then it would be easy; if this was the one thing I was meant to do then I would be good at it right from the start. You always hear of people who are “naturals” at something, who “have a gift” at something, who are just “answering a calling” in doing something.  I didn’t want to struggle, I wanted it to be natural, I wanted this to be my gift.

And when I did struggle, I started to tell myself that maybe this wasn’t what I’m supposed to be doing.  Maybe my calling is something else completely, and maybe I just need to give up on this and try something else, and maybe that other something will be my calling.  And I will know it’s my calling because it will be easy, and natural and fluid.  Right?

Um…no.

It makes me feel a little ridiculous to write it down that way, but that’s exactly what I thought when this whole thing started a few weeks ago.  And I got so in my own head about the whole thing that eventually I just stopped.

I stopped writing second chapters for any of those first five chapters that I had already written.

I stopped writing any more first chapters.

I stopped writing.

I stopped.

And then suddenly that thing that had started to give me comfort and strength and meaning and purpose, it just stopped.  Because I stopped.  Because it got hard. There were no more words, no more inspiration, no more of anything that had been there before.  It was like a switch had been flipped and suddenly I was in the dark, stumbling around, wondering how I was ever going to find the light again.

For the next couple of weeks each time I walked past the room with the desk, the one that wasn’t perfect but was going to help me get where I needed to go, I just felt sad.  Sad and disappointed.  Sad and disappointed and even a little angry.  Over the next couple of weeks I tried to write a few things, tried to get back in the rhythm of writing and I put a few things down on paper and up on this blog but it felt forced, like I was just doing it prove that I was okay, that I wasn’t actually avoiding the desk, with the computer, with those five first chapters.

Then I read two posts from two great bloggers who I love (both because they are great people in person and because they are both wonderful writers) written within days of each other. Funny because they don’t know each other, don’t read each other, and live in different countries, and yet they both tackled the same idea in two unique ways.

Fahrin at My Screaming Diary wrote about it in her post “Worth the Struggle” and Shireen at Tales from the Beehive wrote about it in her post “Learning from a Master.”  In their posts they both tackled the idea of practice, the concept that we need to do more of it, and not give up on ourselves when things don’t just happen the very first time we try.  When I read each of their posts I nodded along, accepting the concept as they had both outlined it and filed them away.

Then a few days ago it finally hit me that I was doing exactly that; exactly that thing that they both wrote about.  I wasn’t looking at NaNoWriMo as practicing, I was looking at it as a test, a test of whether I was really meant to be a novelist.  A test that seemingly I was failing because it turned out to be harder than I thought.

Of course it was hard, it’s supposed to be hard.  The fact that it was hard didn’t mean that I should give up, it just meant that I should keep practicing, keep trying, keep learning.  It’s okay to have to practice, it’s okay to have to work and work and work at something before you get to where you need to be.  That doesn’t mean that it’s not “meant to be” or that it’s not my “gift.”

Because all of those people who ended up being “naturals” at something also had to practice, it’s just not sexy to talk about.  It doesn’t make a good sound bite to hear about the years they spent pulling their hair out, banging their heads against the wall and repeatedly wanting to give up.  But, in 99% of those stories, that’s exactly what happened because having a “gift” doesn’t mean you don’t have to practice, it just means that at some point you have to decide that all the hard work is worth it.

So that’s what I going to try to do.  I’m going to practice the art of practice and see where it takes me.  NaNoWriMo may have gotten the better of me this year but next year I’ll be back, dreaming my pipe dream.  But next year I will be ready for it to be hard, ready for the doubts and the darkness inside my head that will inevitably come.

And next year I will know better than to turn out the light.

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