Practice makes…why does it have to make anything?
It’s easy to forget to practice as a writer. Sure, many of us have writing schedules that we desperately try to stick to…and perhaps we describe this type of writing as “practice.” But for most of us, this time is usually devoted to writing and revising a project—a novel, a short story, maybe a blog entry. What about silly, frivolous, this-serves-no-purpose-but-it-sure-is-fun sort of writing….when does that happen?
What is the point in writing something with no purpose? Does anyone have time for this type of writing for pleasure?
We live in a project driven society. Time management and production advice gurus write books titled “Getting Things Done” (David Allen) and “Make Ideas Happen” (Scott Belsky). These books jump onto the NY Times’ best seller list and stay there for months on end. It seems that everyone is working toward the goal of producing more…not necessarily enjoying more.
My students spend their days working to get the grades that will grab the college and fling them into a successful future. Extra curricular activities are chosen specifically with an end-game in mind. Instead of participating in a school play, today’s high schoolers enroll in drama camps and take after-school theater enrichment programs. They are expected to commit and excel. Teenagers who “dabble” in a watercolor class here, and a game of soccer there, are not considered to be “serious” in that they’re not using the activity to “get anywhere.”
The word “amateur” comes from French and means “lover of.” Today, we think of amateurs as people who don’t have the skills to “make it” professionally in their area of choice. What a misrepresentation of the original meaning of the word! Think about what our society has taken away from itself when it pushes people toward being “professional” by redefining “amateur” to mean unimportant and low skilled. We are losing our lovers of art, music, writing, theater—even math, science, and sports—by not appreciating those who love these things with or without a paycheck. In a sense, we are turning our backs on the people whose positive energy makes our communities better places to live.
Olympic athletes are amateurs appreciated on an international stage. Some are famous, raking in advertising dollars for participating in sports which their countries celebrate. Others, like the members of the US curling team, work their day jobs and participate in their passion during off-hours. They make little, if any, money from curling. Yet once every four years, they too garner the title of Olympian for practicing what they love. Why are Olympians the only amateurs we raise up and praise? Is it because they are the “best” amateurs in the world? Sometimes. But I think that the Olympics are compelling more for the true-blue love that each Olympian shows for their sport. Passion inspires passion.
This fall, my goal is to balance projects with play-time. I’m dragging out my old-fashioned journal and writing words and worlds that I plan for nobody but myself to see. It’s time to make sure I have time to enjoy what I love. This means giving myself permission to have fun, to revel in play, and to appreciate others who give themselves room to “dabble.” Join me, won’t you? The projects will still be here tomorrow.