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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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practice

So, it’s Day 2 of 2017……..

……..and so far, so good. I’m alive, I have a place to live, I’ve got clothes to wear and food to eat. I have friends who funny and witty and supportive. There’s not a lot more to ask for, when those are very real and very priceless things to have in life.

Of course, as good as it is, I want to expand and improve on it, to strengthen what I’ve got and work on what’s weak. You could call it self-improvement, I suppose, and that’s all right with me, as I’m always striving to be my best, most authentic and truest self. Goals are helpful in this regard – they serve as motivation to achieve a specific result and as markers to show how much further you might have to go.

My goals for this year are varied. Some are practical (because being practical is a good thing, even for a creative person), some are whimsical and some are just explorations of what looks like fun.

This year, I am determined to learn how to tap dance. I don’t expect to get on a level of Gene Kelly’s caliber or even Debbie Reynolds (who learned for Singin’ In The Rain in just 90 days what Kelly had done for years). What I expect to get out of it is some exercise, some fun and a new skill that may carry over into something else. You never know until you do it where it will end up leading you.

I’m also equally determined to learn how to play my violin. I can hear the notes and pluck the correct strings with my fingers and get a (somewhat) accurate recreation of what I had just heard. The actual playing of it with the bow, however, is slightly problematic – my fingers don’t like the placement when holding the violin itself.

How do I correct this, in order to play the violin as it is meant to be played? How do I learn to dance with my tap shoes in a graceful pattern?

Three words – practice, practice, practice.

How do I manage to find the time to practice? Self-discipline.

As with anything else in the arts, you become skilled with practice and you are always learning, but it is the self-discipline that separates the wannabes from the achievers.

Still waiting patiently, the violin waits.
Patiently, the violin waits.

So, given that it in this life……

…….we have to have an income in order to live (rent, groceries, utilities, children), finding time to be creative may seem like a luxury. It isn’t – it’s vital to our well-being to make time to express ourselves through the creative arts. Stephen King wrote early in the morning and late at night – he did this while teaching English in Maine. So did Mary Higgins Clarke, Danielle Steele, J.K. Rowling, Edward Stratemeyer (creator of the Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew). I know that many other artists do and have done the same thing – they found a way and made time for it.

Even if it’s just for an hour a day, once you’ve got that hour, guard it fiercely. Even if all you do is stare at a blank page, a blank canvas or a blob of clay and make nothing for that entire hour, you are training yourself to be present for that hour. Write a thousand words in that hour, walk away and edit it the next day. Sketch out on a blank piece of paper what you want to paint in bold colors on canvas.

Making deadlines for yourself will help, as well. For example, for the writers out there, set a goal to write a specific word count each day. If you write a thousand words a day, make it a goal to increase the daily word count and give yourself a deadline as to when you want to have the first draft written. If you fall short of your word count one day, make it up the next day, if you can, but keep your eyes on your deadline. A great example of writing to a deadline is National Novel Writing Month, held every year in November.

Deadlines help keep you on track and can give you the bit of inspiration you need to knuckle down and go for the goal. And while Douglas Adams enjoyed hearing his deadlines whoosh past, when you meet yours or even accomplish your goal prior to it, you can take satisfaction that you whooshed past it.

“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”
Douglas Adams, author, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Recommended Link:

National Novel Writing Month

Editor’s Note: This blog post is concurrently published on Citizens Journal VC

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