Deep practice and yak shaving
I just finished reading "The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyne. His book is based on his analysis of what people have done and need to do in order to become great at something. First: they need "ignition." They need to believe that they can become great, and be inspired to be great. Second: they need "master coaching." A master coach knows what skills are needed for greatness, what practices are needed to build those skills, and how to connect a particular student to the skills and practices that student needs. Finally, and most important, is "deep practice."
Deep practice is not mere repetition. Mere repetition is mindlessly carrying out a conditioned response. If the conditioned response results in a shitty performance, then instead producing a shitty performance, but only with great effort, one can produce a shitty performance with ease. Deep practice, means that you constantly compare the current performance (shitty, say) and the desired, or ideal level (awesome, say) and continuously analyze and adjust the performance to make the current performance more like the ideal. For deep practice you must have the ideal in mind and a burning desire to move in that direction (ignition) and it helps to have someone who can point out differences between current and ideal that you are not capable of noticing and who can give you exercises to help you build your skills (master coach.)
I found Coyne's book because Barbara Baig, a master coach for writing, mentioned it in her book, "Spellbinding Sentences." She's believes in what Coyne calls "deep practice" and what others call "deliberate practice."
Athletes and musicians who want to become great devote countless hours to what the expertise researchers call “deliberate practice.” This is not just fooling around, or playing a game with a friend. Deliberate practice is highly focused and intentional. It’s designed in such a way that we can learn a new skill or improve one we already have. Anders Ericsson, an expert in skills acquisition, says deliberate practice “entails considerable, specific, and sustained efforts to do something you can’t do well—or even at all.” It’s deliberate practice, not innate talent, that makes some people great at what they do.
I attended a talk that Barbara gave at the Blue Hill Library some years ago. She'd just published her first book, "How to be a writer," in her talk she introduced some of the ideas in the book: breaking writing down into a set of skills; providing exercises to develop each skill. Her first book is about "content skills:" finding and organizing something to write about. The second book is about "word skills:" building your ability to put words together so that you can clearly and compellingly present your content.
Practice! Practice! Practice!
I believe in it. We did some of her practice exercises. I found them useful.
So I bought the book. And .... I did nothing.
Not a fucking thing!
Reading "Spellbinding Sentences" turned into a yak-shaving adventure. Want to write? Get Barbara Baig's book. Start reading it. She mentions Daniel Coyne. Get his book. Start reading it.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
I'm going to start making my practice deliberate. Tomorrow, I'm going to do two things. One: I'll read Baig's book up to the first relevant exercise, and I will do it. B: I will start a log so I can record things that I learn as I continue my 100 day challenge.
And now, Publish.