As you may recall, I am currently in grad school pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing. Something I’ve learned this past semester in a poetry workshop has really stuck with me: the idea of a writing practice. It hadn’t been something that I had considered previously with the framework presented below. So, I figured I’d share it for any other writers out there, in case it’s as eye-opening for you as it was for me!
What is a Writing Practice?
We learned about a writing practice through reading “The Transformative Power of Practice” by Ng’ethe Maina and Staci K. Haines. Essentially, they described a writing practice as not just a habit, like I initially assumed, when introduced to this reading. To me, I figured we would be talking about the importance of putting your ass in your chair and actually doing the work.
Instead, I discovered their definition is much more complex. Your writing practice is split into two types: default practices and intentional practices. It was the default practices that blew my mind a little. Maina and Haines defined it as, “deeply rooted behaviors that we do automatically, consistently and unconsciously, in response to any situation.” Intentional practices, meanwhile, are what we actively choose.
Why was this so mind-breaking for me? Because when I sat down to reflect on my own practices, like our assignment asked, I never realized how much of my default practices were negative.
My Current Practice
My default, unconscious practices and thoughts in relation to writing:
- Doubting my work
- Assuming the worst when asked for feedback
- Feeling imposter syndrome when comparing myself to other writers
- Hesitancy when I sit down to write (and then relief and immense joy afterwards, often accompanied by surprise when I find I like/am proud of my work)
My intentional practices:
- Writing inclusive worlds
- Centering complex female characters
What I’ve Learned
As you can see above, my default practices–those practices that are gut reactions–is to sell myself short and question any worth I assign to my writing. I’ve always had low self-esteem and this has, unsurprisingly, bled into my writing practice; when it comes to the physical act of writing, especially. I’ve been struggling to build back a writing routine and I think it’s because I unconsciously am so negative towards myself, I’ve created my own roadblock of creating that intentional practice of writing, by gods.
That was super eye-opening for me. I always knew about my own self-esteem struggles and my imposter syndrome. But I never thought about how those thoughts, repeating often, would become this unconscious thing I was actively practicing.
Going forward, it’s made me want to focus more on my intentional practices, with the hope to introduce new ones that will help combat those negative defaults in favor for more positives ones. I’m thinking:
- Giving myself grace
- Creating positive mantras to help encourage self belief
- Checking negative thoughts with positive alternatives (e.g., replacing “they are going to hate your work” with “I am really proud of X element in this story”)
- Developing a flexible writing practice
- Less focused on the “perfect” environment, amount of time or writing streak, and instead, more focused on celebrating every word written.
I dunno. The way this was framed really resonated with me, so I wanted to see if it might be helpful for others. Do you connect with the idea of the writing practice the way I outlined it above? What are your default and intentional practices? Or, does this not connect with you? Let me know in the comments!