Practice Makes… Permanent?

Often, we avoid anything that we don’t do very well. The old addage ‘practice makes perfect’, while horrifyingly cliche, is excellent advice. Last Thursday, while trying to instill in my little choristers the value of good diction, I used the phrase ‘practice makes perfect’, and one of my little six year olds, in that delightfully earnest way small children have, told me that the phrase was actually ‘practice makes permanent.’ After having a little giggle to myself, I told her that she was absolutely correct. It’s much better to expect practice will make something a permanent part of our routine, than to expect that perfection will result from practice.

Practice Makes Permanent R.S. Mollison-Read


In writing, we can’t always be great at every aspect of the writing process. I personally have difficulty with descriptions of different locations. When I finished my first draft of Magician’s Mayhem, my initial read-through revealed that the story had some serious deficiencies in my descriptions of locations.
I began to go through my novel, and look for all of those different locations that would require descriptions. Then, I sat down and tried to describe not only the look of that location, but the sounds, and smells, and touch that would be associated with that place as well. By trying to experience all sensory aspects of the locations I am describing, it helps me to translate what is an extremely vivid location in my mind, to an equally vivid description for my reader.
It took me many re-writes to make sure that all of the descriptions encompassed the entire sensory experience of the places I was detailing. Here is an example of one of the location descriptions from Magician’s Mayhem:

Carefully, they entered through the massive, wooden, double doors to the courtyard,  accompanied by the ghostly flutter from the wings of the manor’s avian residents. Reclaimed by the forest, vines had climbed liberally along the walls, their roots seeking out cracks in the stonework. Passing through the main entrance, where doors hung off their hinges, they entered a central hallway lined with age darkened portraits. Dust and time had obscured the visages of the portraits beyond recognition. 
Following the steady light from Darcie’s compass, they explored the manor from the bottom levels to the top. The pulsing light and the pingof the compass grew steadily more excited as they moved up throughout the manor.
Filled with the decrepit remains of someone’s life, the rooms remained fully furnished. Though covered in dust, they harboured a large assortment of small rodents, who had adopted the manor as their own. The scent of must, and rotting wood filled the air, leaving a heavy, damp atmosphere throughout the house.

By focusing on that aspect of writing which is my weakest, instead of ignoring it, I have been able to improve significantly. By no means is description now something at which I excel, but by continuing to practice that skill, I have found that writing descriptions has now become a more permanent part of my writing!

What skill do you need to hone? Have you found that practice makes permanent?


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