Developing a Practice

One of my favorite weekend morning activities is the opportunity to lounge in bed and read. It’s such a luxury since even on weekends I often have to be up and about and out of the house early.  This morning I was reading Natalie Goldberg’s latest book, The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life With Language.  I’ve read most of her books–and while this one doesn’t rank as my favorite–the chapter I read this morning on the importance of developing and committing to a practice struck me.  Here’s what Natalie says about practice:

…we established a different slant to practice other than “practice makes perfect”: It’s something you choose to do on a regular basis with no vision of an outcome; the aim is not improvement, not getting somewhere.  You do it because you do it.  You show up whether you want to or not.  Of course, at the beginning it’s something that you have chosen, that you wanted, but a week, a month in, you often meet resistance.  Even if you love it, inertia, obstacles arise: I can make better use of my time, I’m tired, I’m hungry, this is stupid, I need to listen to the evening news.  Here’s where you have the opportunity to meet your own mind, to examine what it does, its ploys and shenanigans.  That’s ultimately what practice is:  arriving at the front–and back door–of yourself.  You set up to do something consistently over a long period of time–and simply watch what happens with no idea of good or bad, gain or loss. No applause–and no criticism.

To get myself blogging, I gave myself a challenge (maybe that is one variation on a practice) to write and post a blog daily for 30 days.  That short term challenge felt doable.  I didn’t create the challenge for myself because I hoped to become a professional blogger (or writer), but because I wanted to feel what it would be like to consistently blog.  But, I am on the verge of establishing a blogging practice.  I have continued to write and post daily on this blog, well past the 30 days of the challenge…but I am sure as the school year begins on Tuesday that this daily practice will need to morph to a regular practice that is more like a three times weekly practice.  But what I love about the practice is that I have written and posted every day–even when I was tired and couldn’t seem to think of anything interesting to write.  I have pushed past my comfort zone and figured out how to generate ideas and get something composed each and every day.

And I can authentically share my experience of developing a practice with my students.  I can help them develop a regular writing practice.  It doesn’t have to be my practice–writing and publishing a daily blog post–but the act of developing a practice and “showing up” on a regular basis help us each learn something about ourselves.  It also helps us to develop those valuable traits of persistence and grit–hanging in there even when things seem hard.  Because ultimately it’s our drive that determines success and learning.  Talent is great…but effort over time is everything.

This reminds me of my time working for McDonald’s Restaurants before I decided to go into teaching.  Ray Kroc, McDonad’s founder, was inspired by this quote by Calvin Coolidge…which I kept for years on the bulletin board in our home office.

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Natalie recommends keeping a log of your practice–even if you skip–and rather than giving up when you miss a day, just make note of it and resume the next day.  I like this recommendation…and I like that my blog keeps track for me.  I can easily see which days I have “practiced.” What practice will you develop?

6 thoughts on “Developing a Practice

  1. lacy

    This description of practice really resonates with me. You do have me wondering though about the Krocism, which sounds to me more like “hardwork” than practice. And I guess I wonder about how the ideas get taken up differently. I mean “hardwork” is this quality often called on to name how certain people come by wealth and power…. if poor peoples just worked harder, pressed on, they could have financial wealth too… and all of the hierarchal social differences become invisible. Practice seems different though. .. more in process and without that slide toward achievement or success ?

    Reply
    1. kd0602 Post author

      Hi Lacy,

      Your comment has me thinking… I was reading and thinking about persistence and “handwork” through the lens of a growth mindset rather than a fixed ability mindset–and through that lens it isn’t the “bootstrap” scenario (to me). But I do love the practice lens…and I do love that in my experience that practice leads to good things! Thanks for pushing my thinking!

      Reply
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