Kathyrn Graves

Practice

“Reflections” in pastel

Two of my friends, Janet and Jessie, are artists. Once a week, we get together to paint. We call it art “class” because Janet is teaching Jessie the medium of pastel and she is teaching me not just pastel, but art concepts and techniques in general. Janet and Jessie are both accomplished artists in their own rights. I call myself the kindergartener in the room. I learn much from Jessie, too. Both women say that they need to paint every day to keep improving, indeed, even to keep their skills sharp. Janet takes lessons at a gallery, and she says her teacher often repeats the same concept. Practice really does make perfect.

I only paint when I’m in class. I have lofty ideas of painting at home, but it doesn’t happen much. I’ve worked on one piece outside class. I tell myself the reason is that I don’t have all the colors I need. Janet lets me use hers when I’m searching for just the “right” color. Unlike oils, acrylics, or watercolors, pastels are not mixed to make new colors, so owning a wide range of colors is ideal. I’m building my sets, but still need to add to them, especially the muted greens, since I do mostly landscapes.

The real reason I don’t paint every day, and the reason Janet and Jessie don’t either, is because we don’t make it a priority. There are other things I need or want to do that I allow to take precedence. But my friends are more committed to their artwork than I am to mine. They’ve also been doing it longer than I have, but the results of sporadic attempts definitely show in my work. I have a long way to go to be as good as they are.

The same rule applies to writers. We should write every day. For a long time, I was all-or-nothing about my writing schedule. I’d write for hours on end for days in a row. Then I wouldn’t write at all for weeks at a time. I let major projects or deadlines determine my writing schedule. That wasn’t healthy. When I’d come back to my desk to begin a new project, I felt rusty. Some of the rules needed to be re-learned. And it showed in my writing.

Blogging helps me stick to a schedule. I know others will read what I write, so I pay more attention to technique than if I were simply journaling. I have built-in accountability by advertising that I will post on certain sites on certain days. Each of my blogs has a theme, which gives me a framework for what I will write, much like an artist who works on portraits and landscapes on alternating days of the week.

Do you write every day? What helps you stay consistent? What are your major distractions?

Pastel Painting/Janet Aiken

Kathryn writes at www.KathrynGraves.blogspot.com on Mondays and Thursdays, and www.KathrynGraves.wordpress.com on Tuesdays and Fridays.

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2 thoughts on “Practice”

  1. Great post Kathryn. Ray Bradbury, one of America’s most successful writer’s, recently died. I was reading about his life, and he is often quoted as saying he set a daily goal of 1,000 words. Though I don’t write every day, I consistently write five to six days per week — at least something. And I set a weekly word-count goal of at least 2,500 during the busy season at the resort I manage, and 5,000 during off-peak. It helps me put my behind in the chair and tackle the hardest part of writing — getting started.

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  2. What a great reminder, Kathy! “The most effective way I know to improve your writing is to do freewriting exercises regularly” (Peter Elbow, Writing without Teachers). [Btw, great book on writing!]

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