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Posts Tagged ‘practice’

Gather ye rose-buds while ye may;
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.
~Robert Herrick

Regular readers of this blog know that I often espouse a carpe diem philosophy. I talk about seizing the day, doing what you want to do, following your dreams and sculpting them into reality. But how does time fit into the equation of this free spirit paradise?

I wish I believed that we could decide to follow our dreams today, and that tomorrow those dreams would be a reality. Or that we could decide to change ourselves today and be completely different people tomorrow. Or even that we could make absolute statements about what an hour of any given experience might be worth. But so often, that is not the way that the world works.

Let’s say I decide I want to be a fine pianist, maybe even an exceptional one. Whether or not we subscribe to the popular notion of 10,000 hours of practice to master a new skill, I don’t think any of us would argue that it would take time, energy, and commitment to learn to play the piano. First we have to learn the fundamentals: how to read music, how to feel and count rhythm, mastering new vocabulary, how to move our fingers on the keys, etc. Then we have to learn ever more complicated pieces, build up muscle memory and finger dexterity, and discover the difference between rote playing and artistic playing. It takes years to become a very fine pianist, and even more to become exceptional. So how do we reconcile these years of effort with seizing the day?

I think the answer is that we have to find pleasure in the daily tasks. While we might not enjoy drilling scales, we might find satisfaction in mastering them. And as a reward, we may allow ourselves to practice Schubert, whom we absolutely adore playing. The idea behind living life to its fullest is not that every day has to be a potpourri of incident and excitement (the people who want this are probably not going to be found practicing piano ten hours a day). It’s that you are spending at least a portion of every day on activities in which you are invested (you know, in between taking a shower and playing Angry Birds).

Time is not the absolute it sometimes appears to be, and some things cannot be rushed through. Forgiveness takes time. Building a relationship takes time. Figuring out what we want takes time. Getting to know ourselves takes time. Becoming skilled takes time. Making change takes time. Sometimes a long time. And we face judgment for not accomplishing these sorts of difficult tasks fast enough. But which is more valuable–doing something right or saving time? Saving time is not always the answer.

Since my mother died, I’ve had people tell me that they’re sure I’d give anything for even just another hour of her company. On the surface, this sounds like a no-brainer, especially since I was very close to my mom. But even this statement ends up being superficial. My mom spent her last week mostly unconscious and obviously in horrible pain and discomfort. Would I give anything for another hour in that week? No; in fact, I’d give a lot to avoid another hour in that week. It follows that the quality of the time is as important as the quantity. There are moments I had with my mom that I wouldn’t trade for days with her.

Our society tends to teach us to value more time, save time, and avoid wasting time. But sometimes less time is more. Some tasks cannot be rushed through. Sometimes seizing the day means slowing down and doing what is needed. Should we put off our dreams indefinitely? I don’t think so, but we also shouldn’t expect them to come true without investing time and effort into them.

In what dream are you putting your time?

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When I announced the Backbone Project two weeks ago, I expected to get some practice at writing essays that weren’t terribly conciliatory, at responding to people who disagreed with me, and at addressing subjects that I might normally hesitate to talk about. And I was right, to a point; I did in fact get practice in all of the above. But I learned a lot more than I anticipated.

First off, I learned that Ferrett is right (which probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to many of you). Here I’ve been spending all this energy softening the expression of my viewpoints and trying my hardest to keep everyone happy, and it turns out that’s not so interesting. People respond more when I’m less nice, less perfection-geared, and less careful, as you can see from the amazing comment threads on all three of the Backbone Project essays.

Also, when people disagree with me or even dislike me, I don’t spontaneously combust into flames. Instead, I have a feeling of strength. There’s something bracingly exciting about saying: This is who I am, and this is where I stand. You don’t have to agree with me, but here I am, like it or not.

In a small, private-ish corner of the internet, I even stirred up a tiny hornet’s nest. Yes, indeed, there were all sorts of strangers saying, among other things, how judgmental and smug I am, how if I’ve had problems with not drinking, it must be because of my attitude (otherwise known as victim blaming, but whatever), and that it is completely not a big deal to not drink. At first, I felt terrible. I should have chosen my words more carefully. I was an awful person, both to write such an essay and to not want to drink in the first place. That second assertion snapped me out of it and instead I felt defensive. They hadn’t read my essay! They definitely hadn’t read the comments following it. They didn’t understand. For awhile, I yo-yoed between the two states.

And then I realized it wasn’t a big deal. The conversation wasn’t even about me. Anybody who no longer liked me or no longer wanted to read my blog probably wasn’t my friend or ideal reader in the first place. “Congratulations,” my husband said. “Having people tear you apart on the internet means you’ve leveled up. You have more influence now.” Oh. Who knew?

Meanwhile, I was busy being educated, and the remaining small rough patch of alienation caused by not drinking alcohol was being healed as I found solidarity in a completely unexpected way. As all of you shared the ways in which you are different, told your stories about being child free or hating to be photographed, not wearing shoes and being vegetarian/vegan, not driving and being polyamorous, I began to feel not so much held apart by my differences as brought closer to all of you who have had similar struggles. Indeed, our differences became something we have in common. I learned so much from all three conversations, and I’m looking forward to many more.

Of course, while my goal for the Backbone Project was to write three essays, in reality the project is ongoing, which is great, because it supports what I’m doing in the rest of my life as well. I’m going to keep trying to avoid the wishy-washy and to write strongly and bravely. I know I won’t always succeed, but my guess is that the more I do it, the better I will become.

And remember, you have until tonight to send me links to your own Backbone Project essays. There have been some really awesome posts going up this last week, and I can’t wait to share them with everybody!

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I’ve been following a conversation on one of the forums I belong to about what works when blogging. You know, the type of discussion in which we talk about what engages the reader and what might increase a blog’s audience, while sharing do and do not tips and all the normal considerations of blogginess.

The estimable Ferrett shared a link on his post on how to get comments. There is much good advice to be had in this essay and the one about blogging that precedes it, but there was one sentence that particularly stood out for me. Ferrett says, “If you’re a conciliatory person by nature, writing a pleasant essay that excuses whatever it is that bugs you with a “But I guess that’s how people are” will not get comments either, because you’ll be so wishy-washy that nobody will be able to disagree with you.”

This sentence popped out at me because I had an instant “ouch” moment of recognition. Yeah. I went through the “Oh no, I probably do that” period to the “Oh God, I hate it when people are wishy-washy” phase to the “I need to stop doing that” realization. It was fun like having a root canal done is fun (and wow, do I now know a whole lot about that). And thus the idea of my newest project was born.

The fact is, I want to be a nice person. And I want you to like me. I don’t even know who you all are, but that doesn’t matter; I just de facto want you to like me. Which I hope you can see can be a bit crazy-making. I enjoy smoothing things over, keeping things calm, following the rules, being reasonable and fair-minded, and not stirring up the pot. Being a people pleaser is, in a way, very reassuring. It allows me to feel that I have some control over life. Never mind that I know intellectually that I have about as much control over my life as I do over the U.S. government (I vote, so there’s my tiny little sliver of control right there).

Unfortunately, there is such a thing as too nice, and sometimes I have trouble finding that line. Plus I definitely do not want to be wishy-washy (the horror!). Hence the project. I am going to write THREE blog posts that are not conciliatory. Well, at least I’m going to try very hard, and you can tell me how I’m doing. I’m planning to publish all three in a row if possible, but in any event I will publish them all in a timely manner. (Really I want to write only one, and then see how it goes, and then maybe write another one if it wasn’t so bad. Talk about wishy-washy! So that’s why I’m committing up front to three.)

I’m depending on you, my readers, to help me make this project a success. Here are some ways you can get involved:

  1. If you are also a people pleaser and a blogger, you can make your own commitment of writing x number of non-conciliatory posts. I will cheer you on, and we can provide moral support for each other!
  2.  You can tell me how I’m doing and call me out if I’m being too nice in spite of myself. I’m so used to doing it, I’m pretty sure I’ll do it sometimes without even realizing it. So I need your eyes.
  3. You can function as a part of my own elite cheerleading squad, telling me how great it is that I’m saying things people could disagree with.
  4. You can disagree with me. In public. Especially if you are a people pleaser too, but really no matter who you are. (Just no trolling. Trolling is not cool and will not advance the cause.)

Right. First post should come out on Thursday. Wish me luck, and feel free to share any last-minute tips (believe me, I’m going to need them).

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When I decided a few years ago that I was going to get serious about my writing, I knew I was going to be writing novels. Novels were, after all, the bulk of what I read. I sat down and wrote a novel to prove to myself that I was capable of doing it.

That’s when I actually became serious about writing. I knew I had the discipline, I knew writing was something I enjoyed and found satisfying. And I fell in with a genre critique group and said to myself, “Oh, I’m supposed to be writing short stories too. Sure, I’ll give it a try. After the novel, how hard could it be?”

Cue the laugh track. Yes, I was being stupid, but I figured out my own stupidity soon enough. I wrote a short story, and it was very hard. So much worldbuilding for so small a project! It drove me nuts. And then I had to rewrite the story, and rewrite the story, and it didn’t matter how much I rewrote this stupid story, because it was never going to work.

Over the course of the next year, I wrote more stories (although perhaps not as many as I should have). At some point I got the bright idea that I should also be reading short stories. (I know. Genius at work here.) That entire year, I hated writing short stories. I actively disliked it. I wasn’t even sure why I was doing it (probably stubbornness). I told myself that short stories didn’t matter anyway, because obviously I was meant to write novels.

Then I finally worked on a story that I enjoyed writing (probably not coincidentally, the one I just sold). I thought to myself, “Maybe short stories aren’t so bad. I mean, they’re annoying, but they have their good points.” I wrote more short stories.

Yesterday I found myself thinking, “You know, even if I got a book deal right now,” — for the record, this is impossible as I have nothing out on submission, but a girl likes to dream — “I’d still want to keep writing short stories.” I stopped and realized what I had just said, and shook my head at myself.

Why am I telling you this rather long story? Because so often we pigeonhole ourselves. Sometimes this can be useful to keep focus and make sure we’re prioritizing our goals, but sometimes we accidentally limit ourselves instead.

It’s especially easy to limit ourselves when we start something new and, surprise surprise, we’re not very good at it. It’s so easy to say, “I don’t like this anyway” or “This is too hard” or “I’m going to do shiny thing z instead.” I’ve seen this over and over as a music teacher. A lot of students thought they wanted to learn how to sing, but once they realized that singing is difficult, that it requires hard work and practice and dedication and failure, many of them would drop out. (Especially adults. It always seemed especially surprising to the adults.) A lot of my children students didn’t enjoy practicing the piano because it was hard and they weren’t very good. If they stuck with it for awhile, though, and were able to pass a certain threshold of competence, all of a sudden playing the piano became much more pleasurable.

I think a lot of pursuits are like this. When we’re starting out and don’t have many skills, it kind of sucks. But then as we start to improve, it gets more and more interesting and exciting. Remembering this helps us keep trying when we’re still in the stage of unpleasantness.

Has anyone else had an experience like mine? Care to share?

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My friend Sean Craven recently wrote an essay about practice.  (Has anyone not heard of Ericsson’s 10,000 hours of practice makes an expert theory?)  The entire essay is interesting, but what particularly struck me was this section:

But I have noticed not just in myself, but in most of the serious beginning writers I know, a sense of stern duty, of feeling that we must steel ourselves for the rigors to come. Writing these days feels like a polar expedition, where we expect to lose a finger or nose to frostbite in the process of starving to death while surrounded by bears.

I laughed out loud in recognition, of both myself and many of my writer friends.  In the last few months, I’ve lost contact with that touchstone of living an artistic life: remembering that I love what I do, and making sure I continue to love it.

It’s so easy to become concentrated on the duty aspects of learning a craft.  I must practice this many hours per week, or I must meet this minimum daily word count.  I must write x number of short stories, or add x number of songs to my repertoire.  I must work diligently on mastering a, b, and c issues that I know are holding me back from being the artist I want to be.  I need to submit or audition more, write better and faster, keep up with Writer K who seems to be achieving SO MUCH MORE than me in the same period of time.  And maybe I should consider attending another workshop or masterclass.

It’s not that these goals are inherently wrong or bad (except possibly for keeping up with Writer K, which is a slippery slope filled with disappointment).  But when your brain is filled with the ear-splitting chorus of duty, sometimes it becomes hard to remember why you started in the first place.  In other words, once a beloved hobby transitions into being “work”, how do we keep the fire going?

I faced a similar transition when I moved from office work to teaching music.  I worried that by making my living with music, I might lose my love for it.  This fear proved to be  unfounded because:

1. Teaching music was infinitely better than the office work I had previously been doing.

2. I really like teaching and working with kids and teens.

3. I really do love music and singing and particularly musical theater that much.

4. Finally, and I think this point is crucial, my job was to spread a passion for music, so I was constantly reminding myself of how cool and amazing music was and pointing out these elements to others.

I had to make some small adjustments to keep myself going: I transitioned away from teaching how to sing pop music, for example, because it began boring me to tears.  And my job was certainly not free of duty, not by a long shot.  But when I closed my studio this summer, I still loved music, singing, and musical theater just as much as when I started.  Thinking about this now, I realize I achieved no small feat in keeping my passion alive.

It is my belief that I love writing, fiction, and narrative just as much as I love singing and musical theater.  I’m just so weighed down by duty that I forget to think about the positive, and unlike at my studio, one of my principle duties isn’t to show how amazing writing can be.  On the contrary, I sometimes feel a certain amount of grumbling is required just so people understand that I’m actually working at all.

So I’m going to be trying out a little experiment for the next few weeks.  When I sit down to list my five happy things, I’m going to add something to the end: reminding myself of concrete reasons why I love to write.  My hope is that this exercise will allow me to enjoy writing more thoroughly, not because it’s an item on my to-do list but for the sheer joy of it.  When I stop and think, it doesn’t take me long to realize what a privilege it is for me to have artistic and challenging work.  I’m officially giving myself the time to remember.

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I’ve had many people ask me about Taos Toolbox, the speculative fiction writer’s workshop I attended this past summer of 2010.  Here’s the scoop on what my experience was like.  Please note, however, that every year will inevitably be different, both in terms of participants, lectures, and details.

Taos Toolbox is a two-week residential workshop in the high mountains above Taos.  It is run by Walter Jon Williams, who teaches with one other writer (for my year, this was Nancy Kress, who will also be teaching in 2011).  During this time, each attendee has the chance to have two pieces critiqued.

My Taos Toolbox classmates

Pros of Taos Toolbox:

1. The shorter time (2 weeks) is easier to fit into life without massive restructuring.

2. Participants can work on either short stories OR novels.  Both lengths are addressed in lecture.  In my year, I’d say about two-thirds of the attendees presented the first section of a novel plus a synopsis for at least one of their two pieces.  However, I opted to turn in two different short stories and also received valuable feedback.  So there’s flexibility here.

3. Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress are both experienced writers AND teachers.  Not everyone who can write can teach, but these two certainly can.  I learned a great deal about many aspects of craft and business during my two weeks.

4. Because the two teachers are teaching together and present for each other’s lectures, that means you get two different views on many subjects.  Walter and Nancy are perfect for this because they don’t have the same writing process at all.

5. The location is gorgeous and secluded.  You really do feel like you’ve gotten away from it all.  But there was (in my year, at least) still internet and cell service, so you’re not completely cut off.

6. As with other workshops, by the end of the two weeks the group had really bonded and I now have many new wonderful writer friends.  We’re still regularly in touch both one-on-one via email and social media, and through our email list.  I see Danielle every few weeks for coffee.  We’re planning other writing and critiquing events and hang out at conventions.  We even read each other’s blogs (hi guys!)

Potential Downsides:

1. Yes, it’s a wee bit expensive.  But do remember that your fee covers the instruction and critiques from two top pros, most of your meals (except for a few dinners), and your lodging.  Personally, I felt like it was worth every penny.

2. The altitude can be a killer, so be warned.  In retrospect, I wish I had come a day earlier and slept in Albuquerque for a night to help my body adjust.

3. It’s intense and involves a lot of critiquing.  A lot. Happily I learned a lot from all the critiques, whether on my own or other people’s work.  However, if you are not comfortable receiving criticism, this might not be the workshop for you.

Format and Logistics:

Every weekday, we’d gather at 10am and usually meet until around 3 or 3:30pm, with a lunch break somewhere in the middle.  During this time, we’d listen to two lectures, one from each teacher, and go through that day’s critiques, Milford style.  Each student had a two-minute time limit on critique-giving, although Walter and Nancy could speak for as long as necessary.  We were also assigned various writing exercises.

Afterwards we’d have free time to write or critique.  Many people took advantage of the free time to go down to Taos for sundries or take hikes in the surrounding mountains.  There was also much hanging out, playing music (Rich brought his guitar), soaking in the hot tub, and movie watching.  (Walter does a plot breakdown of The Maltese Falcon that shouldn’t be missed.)  We were provided with three meals a day during the week, and everyone had their own room.

I will add that I was unsure if I was qualified enough to attend the workshop, being unpublished and never having attended other workshops in the past.  Obviously it worked out well for me, and I’d encourage you to apply if you’re interested and let Walter and Nancy decide if you’re at a level that could benefit from the instruction.

Topics of Instruction:

  • Cleaning up prose
  • Story and structure
  • Writing in scenes
  • Plotting (WJW and NK have fairly different approaches to this.)
  • Literary elements and rhetorical devices
  • Plotting elements and maintaining suspense
  • Narrative modes
  • Analysis of specific works
  • Opening Scenes
  • Writing description
  • Characterization
  • World building
  • Business and contracts
  • Commercial fiction, genre, and issues specifically relating to spec fic

I would say that overall, the greatest focus was on plot and structure (and related topics).

What I Learned:

Do I think my writing improved due to my Taos experience?  Yes, indeed.  One of my critique group members back at home even commented on the difference.  My understanding of the various elements of writing fiction has been deepened in a variety of big and subtle ways.  For example, when I arrived at Taos, I was relying on intuition and my experiences as a reader to work with plot.  It feels like I was fumbling around in the dark compared with how I think about plot now.  My awareness of some of my most pressing issues has been heightened, and I now have tools to deal with these weaknesses and to gradually improve my skills.  I’ve also become more comfortable experimenting with my writing, which I think will ultimately speed up my learning process.  Combine all of these writing lessons with the fabulous friends I made, and I think of my time at Taos as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Final Note:

If you apply to Taos Toolbox before the end of the year, Walter is offering a discount on the cost of the workshop.  So if you’re interested, consider applying early.  Walter and Nancy are accepting applications for 2011 starting on December 1.

More questions about Taos Toolbox?  Please feel free to email me or ask away in the comments.

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How to Try to be Happy

To celebrate my birthday this year, I had a Data barbecue party.  In lieu of gifts, I asked each guest to be prepared to share some interesting knowledge with me.  They could tell me about something about which they were an expert, or something they had read recently, or go on Wikipedia and randomly pick a few facts.

The party turned out surprisingly well, and I was fascinated by the variety of data presented to me.  One friend brought some rope and taught me how to make some basic knots; another gave me a list of Amazon’s top-selling titles ranked by their readability scale; a nurse practitioner friend of mine shared strange and cool facts about the body.  The information itself was interesting, but equally interesting was the choice of subject that each of my friends made.

One of my friends talked to me about happiness.  He had been involved in a personal happiness research project over the past several months.  His gift was telling me the number one most effective technique he had found for increasing personal happiness.  (Which, by the way, ranks in top gifts received ever.  Who needs a bunch of stuff if one knows how to be happy, right?)

His discovery was very simple, and I recognized it right away as a technique I have sometimes used myself, never knowing that I had accidentally stumbled upon Knowledge.  Now this advice is permanently lodged in my head, readily accessible in case of emergency (or just general unhappiness). Ready for it?  This is what he told me to do:

Think of five things that you’re happy about.  Do this every single day.

Read it again.  Its very simplicity is what makes it so effective.  It’s not very difficult to think of five happy things.  And it doesn’t take very long.  And yet in the process of so doing, you’re restructuring the way your brain works.

Fast forward to now.  I’ve been having a bit of a tough time lately.  For starters, I’ve been really sick.  And my tooth broke.  And it just went on from there.  At a certain point, the snowball effect kicked in when the negative thoughts built on each other, and suddenly I felt negative about things I wouldn’t normally have a problem with.  I was framing the story of my life from an unhappy point of view, and I’d lost all sense of perspective.  Eventually this led to insomnia, which just served to feed the cycle further.  Rinse, wash, repeat.

Or maybe not.  Because instead I remembered my friend’s present to me.  Before bed I took a soothing hot bath and told my husband every single good thing about the past year I could possibly think of.  Not just five, but all of them.  Luckily, once I get started I’m very good at thinking of positive things.  I think this skill might be part of the reason why I’m happy a lot.  (Also because little things make me pretty happy, and after a while little things add up.)

I slept soundly that night, and the next day I felt ten times better, and therefore much more able to deal with the real challenges I was facing.  The next night, I only thought of a couple good things, but that was enough because I had spent the whole day framing my life in a more positive way.  I had believed what my friend told me at my party, but it took dramatic results for the knowledge to really sink in.

Do I think that anyone who tried this technique would get equally fast and dramatic results?  No, probably not.  I’ve spent years programming my mind to think more positively, after all.  But I do think it’s a worthwhile exercise.  People spend so much time worrying and hurting and complaining and seeing the bad side and being self-critical.  Setting aside a few minutes for happiness sounds pretty reasonable.

Have you thought of five things that make you happy yet?  Feel free to share them in the comments.  Or e-mail me and tell me about them.  Or keep them to yourself.  As long as you think them, that’s what matters.

 

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Dichotomies are popular partly because they’re catchy and partly because they’re so easy on the brain.  Black vs. white, capitalism vs. socialism, introversion vs. extroversion, right vs. wrong.  Sometimes I wish things were actually this simple, but most of the time I don’t because these comparisons don’t allow any wiggle room or tolerance for difference or adjustment.

So when we talk about quantity vs. quality, both of these attributes contribute to overall well being and success (I’ll save defining “success” for another time).  Is one more important than the other?  I would argue that for many people, one is weaker than the other, and therefore we need to expend more effort and awareness on whichever side is more personally difficult.  Let’s look at some definitions.

Quantity:

  1. Music: number of hours spent practicing and learning new music.  Also preparing music for a performance or audition deadline.
  2. Writing: butt in chair principle; number of hours spent writing and revising, or a daily word count goal.  Also would include having a submission goal of how many markets you submit to per period of time.
  3. Interpersonal: amount of time spent both thinking about what your relationship (and loved one) needs and implementing that, whether by spending more time talking, doing activities, writing emails, cleaning the house, or what-have-you.
  4. Running a business: amount of time spent both on finding and implementing strategies in advertising, marketing, getting your name out there, as well as time spent providing your core service or product and planning special events.  Focused on goals either financial or quantity-based.

These are all great goals, concrete goals, measurable goals.  They require self discipline and commitment to achieve on a regular basis.  Unfortunately, sometimes quantity is not enough.  Standing in the practice room day after day for sixty minute practice sessions that go exactly the same way every time is not usually going to lead to improvement or make a great singer.  Being so obsessed with word count that you can’t afford the time to stop and think how you can use your words more effectively does not make a better writer.  Trying really hard to be a better spouse without being willing to take some personal risks isn’t always effective.

But what happens if we don’t focus on quantity?  Our brilliance is often derailed by lack of organization or dedication.  Projects don’t get finished or maybe don’t even get started.  Businesses fail due to lack of exposure or avoidance of hard financial numbers.  The people we love may feel neglected or friends might characterize you as a flake.  We might sound great when singing but our inability to learn music on time and behave professionally holds us back.

Quality:

  1. Music: choosing one or more technical suggestions to work through during that day’s practice session.  Being willing to try new things even if they feel weird and don’t work right away.  Working on what your teacher brought up during your last lesson and then giving her feedback as to how it’s going in practice.
  2. Writing: choosing subjects/stories that are close to your heart and therefore dangerous.  Taking the time to revise as much as a story needs.  Doing the necessary preparation work (whether that be research, outlining, note taking, character profiles, etc.) that you personally need to write your best story.  Focusing on a particular aspect of craft while writing, even if it slows the work down.
  3. Interpersonal: prioritizing by finding out what makes the most difference to the other person in the relationship.  Getting to the root of any issues between you.  Attempting to see that person without your usual bias and love them unconditionally.  Being honest and open about hard things as well as good ones.
  4. Running a business: Providing individualized service to your clients.  Prioritizing the goal of improving your product or your abilities.  Remembering the people factor in business.  Not cutting every single corner for cost reasons if the quality detriment is high enough.  Focusing on goals of service and satisfied customers.

What happens if we don’t focus on quality?  We work hard for many years and get “stuck” in the same spot, like we’re running in place.  We crank out large volumes of work lacking the spark that will lead to publishing that novel or winning that part during auditions.  Our relationships coast along but don’t necessarily deepen.   The business tends to get a higher than average turnover of clients or customers.  We rush to complete a task without thinking of the meaning behind the task and making sure we do it to their best of our abilities.

Now for me, quality is a lot harder than quantity.  Quantity is easy for somebody like me who has determination, self discipline, and organizational skills in spades.  Quality, on the other hand, is a bit more mystical because it depends on stuff you can’t measure in numbers.  It depends on taking risks.  It doesn’t always conform to plan.  It could end in spectacular failure instead of middling mediocrity.  So for me, I need to put a lot more focus on quality to get myself in balance.

What about you?  What do you need to focus on, quantity or quality?

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