How often do you watch a great athlete or musician you admire and think, “Of course he’s great. He’s a natural. Probably played that well at the age of three.” You’re right, but only partially so. Even the greatest in their fields share one habit in common: deliberate practice.
Deliberate practice is practicing with total concentration with a goal in mind. When Wayne Gretzky was a boy, his dad asked him what he was going to do that day. Gretzky said something like, “Go out on the ice and fool around.” His dad said, “No, you’re not. You’re going to practice. Pick one shot and work on it.”
That’s when Gretzky started deliberately practicing–and never stopped. And that’s what it can do for you. –And one more way to be like Gretzky: have fun doing something well.
An entertaining article on deliberate practice comes from Cal Newport at Study Hacks: “The Grandmaster in the Corner Office: What the Study of Chess Experts Teaches Us about Building a Remarkable Life.”
This post will illuminate how deliberate practice relates to your writing: “Demystifying the Dissertation: What the Research Says.” (Ignore the reference to “dissertations”; this is tremendously relevant to any studying, reading, writing, and editing.) Also, her “A Regular Writing Routine” offers suggestions to acquire regular writing habits.
My favorite is “Fake Rocks, Salamander Commanders, and Just Enough to Start,” by the extraordinary and highly entertaining Merlin Mann. If you can’t get yourself organized, see Mann’s 43 Folders system, also on the site.