When our girls were very small, going on their first trick or treat run around the neighborhood we ‘practiced’ in the mudroom. One would knock on the inside door and say, ‘trick or treat’. I’d open the door greeting them. Then we’d try again. We ended the session when Bayley knocked on the door and yelled very clearly, ‘Give me candy’ which was impressive for a three year old.
Practice makes perfect. Or so we think. But does it?
One summer my parents rented a house on the northern California coast up near Irish Beach. Another summer they bought a camper and traveled down to Arizona. The next they stayed in a small town along the Oregon coast and my dad worked as manager of a local gas station. One summer discovering the US National Parks Volunteer Campground Program they stayed at one park all summer.
For five years, before the actual date, my parents ‘practiced’ retirement. My father, always the planner, thinker, a true lodestar for our family, wanted to make sure they were comfortable in their retirement choice. He had few models in his family, and the models he knew were from a different time and economy.
I think I have that practice gene just like my dad!
I like to practice. It gives me assurance, confidence. I’m not sure there is always perfect. I am like my dad in thinking and calculating. In my writing, I have been called a pantser. I’m sure it looks like I am writing by the seat of my pants as I diddle and fiddle with the opening, the characters and the story line. And for a long time I accepted that judgment of process.
Recently I’ve been writing short stories–murder, mystery and mayhem.
I take a jumble of characters, dialogue, conflict, resolution, all the possible options for the best story, imagine it all, designing, step by step, trying new ideas, lining up events, testing different outcomes, knocking on doors, practicing what I want to say.
I am neither a plotter nor a pantser. I SORT. I practice by parsing the order of events, compressing or expanding them, doing the same with time. Bringing characters to life and then killing them off or sending them to the dustbin.
Yes, it is easier to do with shorts than with novels, but the essential truth is the same.
The girls practiced trick or treat. My dad practiced retirement. I practice getting a story to be a story.
Practice is more than getting it right. Practice is a way of thinking, a through line to an end, what ever end you desire.