“Its a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice,
you will improve at.”
Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
I tell my older students all the time. Learning to correct a speech sound takes practice. It will always feel weird at first. It will always sound wrong when it’s actually right.
I tell them it’s like shooting a free throw. You have to spend a ton of time in front of a basket shooting and missing before you are able to stand and sink the shot consistently. Keep doing the awkward and uncomfortable until it no longer is.
Most kids end up improving right away because it’s just the two of us in a safe little therapy room. They discover practicing can be fun. The dicey part of the process though is practicing in front of others. The sound isn’t perfect yet and it still feels odd to be trying something new. The risk of humiliation is often enough to slow progress to a grinding halt.
Practice mode is a vulnerable place to intentionally put yourself. Especially as an adult. Practice opens the door to all the icky voices we avoid. What are you doing? You’re not very good at that. This is so not worth the hassle. Why are you letting everyone see what a real dork you are? Are you kidding, you can’t do that!
And so we stop attempting anything outside of our familiar set of skills and settle for a boring, stale life. What would happen if we gave ourselves full permission to share an idea/art/craft/skill that is still in the practice mode?
Reading and writing are two things that make me come alive. They spark joy and invite wonder. I’m a reader. Books have been a constant companion since forever. Words strung together into stories are like an addictive substance for me. It’s second nature for me to fill the cracks of life with reading.
I’m also a writer. I have a cabinet with piles of journals dating back to the earliest of the 1980s. They are filled with thoughts, prayers, processing and stories. After decades of consuming shared stories through books, movies and conversations I started this blog a few years ago to share some of my own.
But writing in journals and tucking them away in a cabinet is an entirely different skill than writing to share with people you know.
I love the ACT of writing. It is easy to write words on a page that you know nobody will read. But to write with the intent to share has been a hard and uncomfortable practice. I am nervous and sweaty every single time I press submit on a post. I analyze and criticize and compare and talk myself out of practicing sharing because nothing I write comes out as good on the screen as it sounds in my head. Unpublished drafts sit collecting dust below the surface of this space.
Last week though, I was given a gift. I joined an online writers group of other beginners. Emily, Myquillyn, Gary and Brian generously gave us these words:
If writing is something I want to improve, practice is the only way that’s going to happen. And that means putting more words out that aren’t perfect or polished. It means admitting I’m a beginner and just going for it.
Why am I even doing this?
Because something itches inside me to risk playing the fool, to ignore the critic that bellows constantly in my ears and instead embrace the wonder. I’m determined to learn. Andy Stanley says, “Learners learn and critics criticize.” I know which side of that statement I want to land on.
Today I shrug my shoulders and embrace the permission to practice.
I’m curious. What practice are you deciding to share or not share? I’d love to know and celebrate the process with you.