Practicing My Weaknesses

“I’ve always considered myself to be just average talent and what I have is a ridiculous insane obsessiveness for practice and preparation.” – Will Smith

I’m currently listening to Racing the Rain by John L. Parker. In one scene, young Quenton Cassidy, the main character, learns basketball tips from a famous one-on-one player. The professional gives Quenton the ball and tells him to take his best shot. As Quenton approaches the basket, the expert crowds Quenton to the right. He pushes him so far to the right that Quenton eventually must move to the left, his weak side since the boy is right-handed. Then the pro easily steals the ball. After repeated failures, the expert explains that Quenton must practice his weak side. “I see you practicing what you’re already good at,” he says. To become a pro, Quenton must practice his weaknesses until they becomes natural.

I think about this with writing. I too adore things I’m already good at and want to spend all my time “playing” at those. I love the first draft, no outline, staring down the blank page. I love the freedom to write whatever I want, making something from nothing. I also love detailed editing, crafting sentences, and choosing the right word. These are my “right side.”

But I grow the most by working on skills that don’t come naturally. Plotting and outlines are my nemesis. Big picture revision is a struggle. While I don’t practice them for hours the way the basketball pro urged Quenton, I recognize their necessity and feel my resistance when it’s time to pull those tools out of the kit. I wish I could say I just push through, but I don’t. I usually stall a bit. I’m like a horse that doesn’t want to get into the trailer. It takes a carrot or two, but eventually, because I’m well trained, I force myself to study the big picture and puzzle out the plot. Professionals do the hard stuff too. Hopefully, this makes the reading easy.

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