Breaking Plateaus

Advice I’ve heard often is if you want to improve at something, do it everyday”. This is one reason I decided to write every day. Writing everyday helped me rapidly improve as a writer but for the past few months I feel like I plateaued.

Plateaus are natural especially when progressing rapidly. But how does one get out of a plateau?

Through deliberate practice.

There’s a difference between putting in the reps and deliberate practice. James Clear explains:

The greatest challenge of deliberate practice is to remain focused. In the beginning, showing up and putting in your reps is the most important thing. But after a while we begin to carelessly overlook small errors and miss daily opportunities for improvement…

Mindless activity is the enemy of deliberate practice. The danger of practicing the same thing again and again is that progress becomes assumed. Too often, we assume we are getting better simply because we are gaining experience. In reality, we are merely reinforcing our current habits—not improving them.

Clear then gives an example of Benjamin Franklin using deliberate practice to improve as a writer:

One of my favorite examples of deliberate practice is discussed in Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin. In the book, Colvin describes how Benjamin Franklin used deliberate practice to improve his writing skills.

When he was a teenager, Benjamin Franklin was criticized by his father for his poor writing abilities. Unlike most teenagers, young Ben took his father’s advice seriously and vowed to improve his writing skills.

He began by finding a publication written by some of the best authors of his day. Then, Franklin went through each article line by line and wrote down the meaning of every sentence. Next, he rewrote each article in his own words and then compared his version to the original. Each time, I discovered some of my faults, and corrected them.” Eventually, Franklin realized his vocabulary held him back from better writing, and so he focused intensely on that area.

If I want to continue to improve as a writer, deliberate practice is necessary. The next steps for me is to break down the craft of writing into its smallest parts, identify my weaknesses, and focus on improving them.

December 11, 2020

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