What is writing practice?
How can it help you become a better writer?
And is there a right way and a wrong way to do it?
In 1986, the author, artist and writing teacher Natalie Goldberg introduced the concept of writing practice in her popular and accessible book Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within.
“One of the main aims in writing practice is to learn to trust your own mind and body; to grow patient and non-aggressive.”
Much like free writing, writing practice involves turning up and writing about a particular topic, theme or an idea without editing yourself for a pre-determined period.
Whether you’re a blogger, nonfiction writer or novelist, this expressive type of creative work will help you write better.
It’s also helpful if you suffer from common problems like writer’s block.
The Six Basic Rules of Writing Practice
According to Natalie, there are six basic rules to writing practice. Follow these step-by-step and you won’t go wrong.
1. Keep Your Hand Moving
Don’t take your fingers from your keyboard or put down your pen because you want to check email, attend to chore or get something.
Instead, much like during meditation, you must stay present with whatever you are writing.
2. Don’t Cross Out
If you cross out while you write, you are editing your work. There’s a time for self-censorship and for removing what you didn’t mean; it’s after your writing practice is done. The best writing often comes after eliminating your inner censor.
3. Don’t Worry about Spelling, Punctuation or Grammar
Natalie adds that writers who use pen and paper should write between the lines and on the margins of their notepads.
Again, there’s a time for proof-reading and it’s not during first drafts. You can also use writing practice to play around with word choice.
4. Lose Control
The purpose of writing practice is to free yourself write on “waves of emotion” and say things you hadn’t thought possible.
This loss of control is difficult to achieve, and I’ve found it only comes deep into a writing practice session. In other words, I’m not writing and also checking social media at the same time.
5. Don’t Think. Don’t Get Logical
Natalie practices Zen (a topic she relates to writing practice in her book), and she cautions against over-thinking the words that appear on the blank page.
Avoid trying to join the dots and move from A to B to C. Instead Natalie recommends exploring how your writing can tackle the ever changing nature of life, of human suffering and the world around us.
6. Go for the Jugular
Natalie says writers in the middle of writing practice shouldn’t back down from an idea that’s scary or an idea that makes us feel naked. The best writers push past their fears and keep going.
We should “dive in” because these ideas have “lots of energy”. In other words, if you feel uncomfortable writing about a topic, you need to write about it.
How I Approach Writing Practice
Writing practice renews for me during those moments when I feel blocked and unable to write. I use it for short stories, blog posts and longer articles. It’s one of my favourite activities.
Before I start, I close every application on my computer except my word processor and I set an alarm for 30-60 minutes.
Then, I pick a single topic (recent examples include fear, love, anxiety and ambition) and write without holding back until a buzzer sounds.
Typically, I write 1,000-2,000 words, but this word count isn’t important, and I only share it here as an example.
The content of these writing practice sessions often ends up having nothing whatsoever to do with my original topic.
Occasionally I extract fragments from these writing practice sessions and work them into usable ideas for blog posts, articles and stories.
Stuck? Use Writing Prompts
A collection of writing prompts can help a lot with writing practice. Essential a good writing prompt is like a springboard.
You can use it to jump into the unknown. I recommend keeping a personal list of prompts for your writing practice and also referring to other writing prompts.
They can also help with cultivating a daily writing habit.
If you need help or don’t know how to use writing prompts, check out my free book Yes, You Can Write. This book also includes printable and creative writing exercises.
Hone Your Writing Skills With a Little Practice
If you’re a new writer, writing practice will feel difficult at first.
This feeling is natural because new writers often concern themselves with arbitrary word counts, with perfect sentences and finished stories and articles.
However, writing practice is a skill you can develop over time by turning up in front of the blank page and letting your hand take you in bold and unexpected directions. It’s a key part of the writing process.
“Like running, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Some days you don’t want to run and you resist every step of the three miles, but you do it anyway. You practice whether you want to or not. You don’t wait around for inspiration and a deep desire to run.
This week, instead of writing with a set word count or a target in mind, set an alarm clock, disconnect from the internet, pick a single idea and explore it until the buzzer sounds.
Whatever type of writer you want to become, this type of writing practice will help you explore the outer edges of your craft and break through boundaries you hadn’t realised were in your way.
With a little hard work, your practice will pay off!
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Goldberg, Natalie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 260 Pages - 02/02/2016 (Publication Date) - Shambhala (Publisher)
Yes, You Can Write! by Bryan Collins
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Collins, Bryan (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 45 Pages - 03/21/2018 (Publication Date) - Become a Writer Today (Publisher)
Writing Practice FAQs
How can I practice essay writing ?
You can practice writing essays by breaking your work down into small manageable sections that you tackle day-by-day. While writing a single essay is difficult, after you’ve written a few it will get easier. If in doubt, ask a classmate to critique your work.
How can I practice my english writing?
You can practice your english writing by taking the first page of a book you love and typing it out. Although this may sound monotonous, it will help you understand good sentence structure and grammar. From there, you can develop your own style.
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