100th Post Extravaganza

I went to a writer's conference at UVU on Thursday, and came away with several very good tidbits. I thought I'd share them with you guys, 'cuz I'm nice like that. :o)

I also realized just in time that it's my 100th post. I don't want to blow by that without doing something to celebrate. So read on, contest lovers. Read on.

The class I got the most out of was Anita Stansfield's. I heard Anita speak in '01 in Lisa Peck's basement, but haven't seen her since despite all the conferences I've been to. So I was excited to hear what she had to say. And I had two very loud, big a-ha moments in that class.

The first was regarding the left and right brains. As writers, we all know about the dreaded "internal editor." If my 10-year-old were here, she would be making a scary music sound effect right now, that goes something like this: du-du-duuuu, in a low, descending pattern. ;o) Kinda hard to make it come alive in the written word, but I gave it a shot. Anyway, so we were talking about our internal editors. Du-du-duuuu.

The question for me hasn't ever been why I should shut her up while I'm trying to write my first draft, but, rather, how. Well, I think I have some new ammo for that now. See, what I learned is that first drafts come from the right side of the brain. The creative side. The storytelling side. Edits, on the other hand, come from the left side. The logical, grammar-checking side.

Every time you're writing along and you start thinking there might be a better way to say this, or that your word choice isn't quite right, or that you don't know if your character would be doing this, all those happily firing synapses on the right side of the brain come to a screeching halt and the electrical current has to go through this little connecting tissue between the two halves of the brain to access your editing capabilities. Then, when you've decided on a word, or on just exactly how that scene should play out to be the most compelling to keep the reader flipping pages, the current has to then travel back to the right side of the brain and get back in place to start writing again.

Are you starting to see why this is bad? So far, I've found this imagery of the left and right brain halves switching back and forth to be extremely helpful in keeping my internal editor (du-du-duuuu) at bay. She made a very good point, too, that goes along with it. She said the first draft is when you figure out what you want to say, and the subsequent drafts are figuring out how you want to say it.

The other thing she talked about is a study that was done by K. Anders Ericsson. He found after studying violinists at Berlin's Academy of Music for 15 years that those who became virtuosos had put in 10,000 hours of practice. Those who were merely good practiced for 8,000. And those who were good enough to teach music, but weren't performers, had put in just 400 hours. The most amazing part is that there were no violinists who were so naturally talented that they emerged at the top without practicing as much. And there were none who were so awkward as beginners who didn't make it if they put in their 10,000 hours.

I found another interesting related study today as well. Some researches at MIT studied the brains of grandmaster chess champions compared to other great chess players who hadn't reached grandmaster status. They found that the grandmasters had laid down two billion neural pathways and linkages in their brains. At that point, they have achieved a level of conscious subject matter expertise that those chess masters with less than 2 billion pathways haven't achieved.

If you want to read more about these studies, there are tons of articles and blog posts on the 'net. This is the article I personally found most clear and helpful.

We've all heard that "Practice makes perfect," and "Don't let your internal editor (du-du-duuuu) pop up while you're writing your first draft." But I found these two illustrations of those points immensely helpful.

So, the question I have to ask myself is, "Do I want to be a grandmaster author? Or am I okay with just being a good one?" And I have to say that I do want to be a grandmaster. And that makes it all the more important to sit my butt down in that chair and WRITE more. I get all seized up all the time worrying that my writing is junk. Now I know the cure - put in the hours it takes, and it'll get better! Hallelujah!

All right, so on to the contest. For you stalwart blog readers who made it this far through all my long-windedness, you have a chance to win a copy of Achieving Your Life Mission by Randal Wright. I haven't finished reading it yet myself, but so far, I've found it to be excellent. And my friend Ali has nothing but good things to say about the book.

If you happen to be Ali or someone else who already owns the book, or even someone who doesn't care to own the book, enter anyway and I'll come up with an equally awesome prize for you.

All you have to do is leave a comment telling me what, if anything, is important enough to you to put in the practice it would take to become a grandmaster? Writing? Home decorating? Music? Sports? Art? And I'd like to know one thing you'll start doing different in your life to work toward your goal.

I'll draw a winner from a hat on October 1st, so comment by the last day of September if you want a chance to win.

By the way, it occurred to me that if I had spent 100 hours on each of these 100 blog posts, I would now be a grandmaster blogger! Instead, I'm merely a great one. :-P


  1. I DO happen to be Ali! And no fair! I was gonna run a blog contest for that book too! Except, it'as awesome enough that everyone should be trying hard to get their hands on one . . . they shouldn't mind TWO contests for the same most-awesome book, right?

    For me, I thought music was what I wanted to be a grandmaster at (as a wife to a chess-playing hubby, I love this analogy!) but it turns out I wasn't willing to put in the long hours of work. I did A LOT, but . . . not enough.

    Now, I'd say it's writing. So, I read blogs and write blogs, read, and write. A LOT.

    One thing I'll do differently? Hmm . . . I think, feel less guilty about my reading time. I tend to resist, thinking it's a waste or something, only to find out that I've puttered around doing nothing, when I could have been relaxing AND practicing (by reading) and how cool is that!? Two birds and all that . . . ;)

    Congrats on the 100 posts Jenn!

  2. I came away with this same realization. 10,000 hours to hone my craft? It's so worth it. I want to be a grandmaster of words and to that end, I will practice.

    My other life's aim? I'd like to be a grandmaster of Kindness. 10,000 hours of being kind, truly kind--that is so little to ask for.

  3. I LOVE self-help books! I read them all the time. I love things that inspire me to be a better me. I would love to win it! Knowing you love it, I know I would love it too.

    This may sound weird, but one thing in my life that requires practicing is scripture study and prayer. I will get off track and have a spell where I am terrible. Then I keep thinking someone or something will inspire me and the joy of doing those things will just overcome me and I'll start doing them. In reality, I have to practice doing them every day until that joy comes. Then, I will be motivated to do it each day because I want to, not out of guilt. So I guess in some measure we have to practice spirituality. My goal is to get to that point again where I have so much joy from doing those daily things.

  4. For me, it's definitely writing. I never quite feel like I'm good enough. What am I going to do to be better? Well, I recently started a writers group here in Kansas. That's been really helpful. I'm also going to stop being so hard on myself and just enjoy the process of creating and getting it all down on paper.

    BTW - I took a class from Anita & I thought she was fabulous! I'm glad you enjoyed hearing her speak.

  5. I'd love to be a grand master at too many things. It seems like there is always something new to try. What do they say? Jack of all trades, master of none? If anything, I'd love to perfect my writing. The trick is finding those 10,000 hours and hoping I live long enough to use them all.

  6. I too want to become a grandmaster of words.

    I love the imagery of the synapses firing on different sides of the brain and the current traveling back and forth between them. That's extremely helpful.

    I think that my first step in logging my practice hours is to actually move my laptop from the nice, sleep-inducing couch the the pretty little office/nook I actually set up for writing. ^_^

  7. Oooh, Oooh! Enter me into the contest! I enjoyed reading all of this - it was a nice review from what we talked about on Saturday night. Seriously, just hearing (and now reading) one thing about the right brain vs. left brain has made a difference when I write. Congrats on 100 posts - keep 'em coming!


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