Sunday, December 04, 2005

This marks the 50th entry I've written in this journal. I wanted to write more often, in small pieces, and so far I've succeeded.

I've been reading Alice Flaherty's The Midnight Disease. It's filled with factoids and anecdotes, and one of my favorites is about a ceramics class whose teacher divided them into two groups. The first group was graded on quantity -- fifty pounds of pots earned an A, forty pounds earned a B, etc. The second group was graded on quality; each student only had to fashion one perfect pot, and they could take as long as they needed. At the end of the semester, it turned out that the best pots had been produced by the quantity group. They weren't aiming for perfection, but accumulated practice inevitably got them there.

That anecdote reminded me of a similar story I'd heard about a basketball team whose coach split them into two groups. He assigned the first group to spend ten minutes every night with their eyes closed, visualizing themselves shooting free throws; and as the season progressed, that first group's free throw percentages increased dramatically compared to their teammates.

Obviously the story was meant to illustrate the power of mind over body; but I couldn't help thinking, "Why didn't the coach assign a third group to spend an extra ten minutes practicing for real?" Sure, visualizing yourself playing basketball might be more productive than playing Nintendo; but stack it against the real thing, and the coach would learn quick what that ceramics class proved: There's no substitute for experience.

Chuck Jones wrote that his first instructor at the Chouinard Art Institute began every semester with this declaration: "All of you here have one hundred thousand bad drawings in you. The sooner you get rid of them, the better it will be for everyone." So I keep writing. I like some entries better than others; the last few, in particular, have dragged. But the only question is whether actually writing something every day is more productive than daydreaming about becoming a great author; and so long as I'm convinced that it is, I'll keep hacking away.


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