Practice Makes Perfect

Let me explain my previous post. I wrote that little story some time ago as a piece of practice writing. Before writing, I set myself some parameters. The piece must:
*be exactly 1000 words long;
*Contain a discovery that leads to conflict;
*Mention 7 objects that all start with 'S' - sleeping bag, soap, sack, satin ribbon, stove, saucepan and soup;
*Have a question in every piece of dialogue;
*Mention every colour of the rainbow plus black and white, once and only once.
This story did not aim to be a great piece of literature; it did not even try to be a particularly good story. It was an exercise, which aimed to make me more aware of my own writing: to help me to be more controlled and precise in my use of words, more inventive with my vocabulary, more aware of structure and the limitations structure must impose on writing. As an exercise, it worked; it worked because other, more serious pieces I wrote after the exercise were much more soundly constructed. This exercise was something I could do in order to help me do something I couldn't do - namely write well for a sustained period of time.

Practicing, i.e. doing something attainable for the sake of achieving something unattainable, is what our spiritual life is about. Just as we sing the scales or quietly practice our putting in order to train our voices for arias or our wrists for the green, so we pray, meditate, attend worship, read holy literature, give alms, keep journals and a thousand other sacred things to train our selves for a life in the Spirit. That is not to say our spiritual practices don't have worth in their own right. Of course our prayer - to take one spiritual practice as an example - is effective, and we pray for the sake of prayer alone; but it is only disciplined, regular times of prayer, incorporated into our life over a long time - prayer as practice - which school us to lead to the life of prayer urged by Paul in Romans 12:12, Colossians 4:2, and elsewhere.

My meditation practice grows unsteadily onward. It does not become easier though it becomes more rewarding. I school myself in awareness and stillness for two reasons. Firstly because it is worthwhile in its own right. It is a benefit to the body and soul to be still and free from my usual inner taskmasters for a short spell each day. Secondly, and most importantly, it is practice; training for a whole life that I hope will one day be lived from a place of inner stillness and in awareness. I know my spiritual practice is working not so much by the amount of time I can sit for, but by the amount of stillness and awareness that seeps out into the rest of my life.


Katherine said…
Firstly, for what my opinion is worth, I think the piece of writing is marvelous, and the parameters seamlessly incorporated within.

And great to hear your meditation goes well.
VenDr said…
Why thank you Katherine, but it's a bit dodgy really. When is it set, for example? Most of the piece suggests, maybe, the 1930s. The butane stove with a self ignition system suggests half a century later. I could rework it and fix that, but why? It's only a doodle. Writing like any other art form is not really about talent. Talent helps, of course, but mostly it's about craft and craftsmanship; i.e. the hard work of developing the craft. I suspect you know all about that.
I have a children's novel well underway which has been shelved for too long now. The basic idea is pretty good, if I do say so myself, but the idea is the easy bit. The grind of getting it down on paper and then the bigger grind of making it presentable and hole proof is what takes the time and energy. My daughter keeps badgering me to finish. So does an old girlfriend of my son's who has read a couple of early chapters and wants to know what happens in the end. January, perhaps.
Katherine said…
Without posting on your post, (ie without writing an epistle here) the meaning of art...maybe at essence, is to 'move' someone. People who are moved are motivated to fill in the gaps from their own imagination. Perhaps you (and I) are too critical of ourselves...
It moved me. I didn't notice the imperfections.
VenDr said…
Yeahh....I know. The worst, the absolute worst thing I bring to writing is a degree in English. The trouble is, I know what good prose looks like. And when I write the stuff that appears on the page isn't exactly Annie Dillard or F Scott Fitzgerald. So the creative flow gets bogged quickly into nit picky sentence by sentence reconstruction.I've been told a thousand times by those who know - just get it down. revise later. Yes...well...if only that finicky little bloke inside my head would shut up already about using the same word twice in two sentences...