Posted by: Gwendolyn Huber | November 15, 2011

Nine things singing taught me about writing.

When I’m not writing, I’m a singer, a teacher, and a musician. This is what I learned about writing from music. The trick of course, is remembering I know these things in the midst of battle.
1. You must practice.

“Do it today so as not to suffer a regret tomorrow” – Pat Croce

They say that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become really good at something. The exception is the two minute rule. If you can put all your focus on something for a short time you can still make good progress. Your enemy is distraction.

2. Let go of your ego.

The price of learning is being able to take suggestions and criticism and use them to improve your product. That means finding a balance between working alone and interacting with others.

3. You have to love what you’re doing, but even more important, you must figure out how to keep the joy alive when all you are seeing is your inadequacies.

Bottom line, it’s all about play. If you’re playing, imperfection doesn’t hurt because you’re working on a puzzle, and if one thing doesn’t work, then maybe the next thing will. It’s you against you, not you against the world. Tips to make things fun: make a game of it by paying yourself when you reach your goal.

4. You have to teach yourself.

Even if you’re lucky enough to have a teacher, it is entirely up to you to make the most of the information they give you.

5. There are a lot of things to keep in mind, but all you really have to do is one thing at a time.

I have students who, when they look at a new piece of music, are overwhelmed and want to give up. Part of my job is to explain that all if you start with one thing, then add to it, and keep on adding to it until it’s finished, it’s manageable. That very same thing is true in writing.

6. For singing, there are two operating modes, thinking mode for practice, and brain off mode – autopilot – for performance.

In writing, you need brain on mode for planning and revising, and brain off mode for getting that first draft down.

7. If at all possible, avoid force. Be gentle with yourself. Trust it will happen the way it should.

8. Know where you’re going and stay in motion until you get to the end.

Every phrase in a song has to have a goal and so does every sentence in a story.

9. Make it interesting.

Just keeping this in mind as I sing and write is useful.

What have other parts of your life taught you about writing?

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