We know what makes perfect. But do we do it?

When I told my mom I was chosen to perform a trumpet solo for my 8th-grade jazz band concert, she said…

“Well, Kenneth . . .”

Yeah, she called me Kenneth.  And don’t you guys even try it, ok?

“Well, Kenneth . . . just remember, practice makes perfect.”

Thanks, Mom.  Like I haven’t heard that one before.  Next thing you know you’re going to tell me there’s no I in team and that I shouldn’t pull my tube socks up to my knees (actually, she never told me that and boy, do I wish she had).

What do you know anyway, Mom?

Turns out, moms know a lot.

I listened to her.  And I practiced.  And practiced.  I practiced like my 8th-grade crush would be watching (cuz she would be).  And while I wasn’t perfect that fateful eve, I was pretty dang good.  (My crush even agreed to go to the semi-formal with me when I asked later that night . . . who said trumpet players weren’t cool?)

I didn’t go on to play the trumpet professionally because I didn’t want to practice that much.

Professional musicians practice constantly.  Multiple hours per day, right?

Professional athletes are the same way.  Just look at what Tiger Woods’ practice schedule was after he was the #1 golfer in the world.

But what about writers?

I’ve been doing a lot of consulting lately for writers who are self-producing (good, no, great for them) and you know what I’ve noticed?

Most writers don’t practice.  They just write.

They sit down and work on their new play.  Or their movie.  Or whatever it is.

And while there obviously is a lot of learning from the doing, it’s not doing what all the high-performance experts say you should do to get better at a certain skill.  The experts all say that if you want to improve at something . . . anything . . . you should follow this three step process:

  1. Identify your weakness.
  2. Train that weakness.
  3. Track your results.

Writers don’t do it that way.

But could they?  Should they?

I’m starting to think so.  I know I’m going to . . .

Why don’t you try it, too? What’s the worst that could happen, you actually get better?

So . . . if you want to be a funnier writer?  Try this exercise.  Are you ready?  Pick a random job (janitor, stock broker, teacher) and give me 10 jokes about being in that occupation for one week solid.  And you’ve got only 30 minutes to deliver all 10.  Go!  (Tomorrow, pick another occupation.)

Want to write deeper characters?  Open up a magazine and find an ad with a photo of a person.  Write a detailed character history . . . as detailed as you can get (what did they get on their SATs, do they drink whiskey or wine, etc.) . . . in 10 minutes.

That’s practice.

If you’re a writer, and you haven’t gotten exactly where you want to be just yet, this week, maybe stop working on your latest show.

Instead, find an expert.  Have them identify your weakness.  And practice like your dreams depended on it.

It will work.  I know.

Because my mom told me so.

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.