Practice vs. Deliberate Practice
This was my question as I read Geoffery Colvin’s article about the “secrets of greatness.”
Practice, said Colvin, was significantly more important than natural talent. I wasn’t surprised. I’ve read this before in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.
But something struck me: there was practice and then there was “deliberate practice.” Colvin says:
Simply hitting a bucket of balls is not deliberate practice, which is why most golfers don’t get better. Hitting an eight-iron 300 times with a goal of leaving the ball within 20 feet of the pin 80 percent of the time, continually observing results and making appropriate adjustments, and doing that for hours every day—that’s deliberate practice.
Colvin talked about an experiment done amongst 20-year-old violinists. “The best group,” he says, “averaged 10,000 hours of deliberate practice over their lives; the next-best averaged 7,500 hours; and the next, 5,000.”
I was stung by it. “How much have I practiced writing in this way?” I thought. “Deliberate, measured practice, getting feedback from others?”
I realized I hadn’t practiced very much. And worse, I didn’t even know how I would go about practicing this way.
The Write Practice, among other things, is an attempt to practice writing deliberately. And to be honest, we are still discovering how to deliberately practice writing. We aren’t experts. We aren’t professors of practice. We’re just like you: students trying to learn as much as we can and share whatwe’ve figured out.
Today, we’re going to deliberately practice description. Pick an object in the room. Then write about it for five minutes. Does that seem like a long time? It will surprise you how long it will take just to describe it, but if you still have time left over, try thinking about a memory that involves the object.
After the five minutes are up, start a new paragraph and describe it AGAIN for five miutes. Then do it one more time, so that you’ve described it three times total.
Which one is the best? Which one is the most creative? Which one best captures the object?
[Turn all three descriptions in to Ms. Thomas’s TURN IN ALL basket for 10 points extra credit.]