What does it mean “to do the work”?

As per yesterday’s post, in order to get great at something, we need to do the work. It’s not innate.

But just doing work doesn’t necessarily make us better.

The old saying was “practice makes perfect.” I still hear people say it from time to time.

I disagree. I’ve heard more accurately, “practice makes permanent.” Of course, it’s typically not permanent—with work, most things can be changed. (And how maddening to work and work and then have to work and work to fix it!)

I like to say, “perfect practice makes perfect.”

Practice it the way you want it to be.

That said, I teach an art that happens in real time. In a performance, you don’t get to edit the mistakes. (I wish we would stop editing them out of the recordings, too, honestly.)

Currently, I’m engaging in an art where I have the opportunity to edit.

In both cases, having someone who knows better (or different) how to do what you’re doing makes a big difference. A teacher. A coach. An editor. An adjudicator.

You can show them your work (whether that’s in real time or not) and they can critique you. Tell you what you’re doing well and what you ought to change and how to change it and why.

Because all of these things have a level of subjectivity—especially once you pass a certain level of skill—having more than one mentor is useful. Not necessarily at one time, but moving on from one to another after a period of time. Or taking an opportunity to have a once-off with someone. A one-night stand, but for creative skill.

My writing improves as I write more. Everything I write, I edit prior to publishing. Most posts I let sit for at least a day before I go back and read again to edit. Many posts more than once. But my writing has improved the most when I’ve had other people read and critique and edit.

So. Do the work. But do it well. And if you don’t know how to do it well, find someone to help you. (And, because they have already done the work and have expertise, please expect to pay them.)


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