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Practice Makes Perfect

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

Recently, I felt the desire to leave my computer and actually go outside for some fresh air. I visited a lookout point just off the road, up in the mountains of Arizona. As I sat there and took in the stunning view, I used the opportunity to practice my writing.

I know that one of my weaknesses is descriptions. I tend to be straight to the point in how I describe things, which can be a bit lackluster at times. If I want to get better at this part of my writing, I need to practice. What better time to practice than when looking at an extraordinary view?

So I pulled out my trusty blue notebook and set to work. I studied the landscape before me, picked an aspect of it, and tried to paint a nice word picture in a few sentences while using my thesaurus app on my phone as little as possible. This is what I came up with:

My Samples

Hundreds of daisies grew along the rocky hillside, each bright like a tiny, spring-day sun. Together, the vibrant masses painted the land yellow.

Groves of aspen trees pocketed the hillside. The bright green of the leaves quivered with the slightest breeze and filled the air with their tranquil rustling.

The mountains gave way to rolling grass hills that stretched off into the horizon. Fluffy masses of clean white clouds drifted across the crisp blue sky, casting their shadows across the landscape.

The breeze that roamed through the mountains carried a slight chill in it near the end of summer. It was a welcome gift while in the sun, and a bitter reminder that the seasons were changing while under the pines.

Great green pines towered, tall and proud over the landscape. Their needles, a deep shade of green, contrasted with the lighter shades of grass that spread across the meadow. Beside the healthy trees stood a graveyard of burned trunks. The ghostly spires remained standing, yet barren, after facing what must have been a harsh blaze. Yet, after the destruction, life continued in the form of cool grass and vibrant wildflowers.

Dark, rocky outcroppings formed the rugged hillside. In some spots, the rocks stood firm. Most everywhere else, the stones gave way to gravity and tumbled into a pile at the slope’s base. There the stones gained a faint shade of green as lichen spread across their surface.

A Review of the Samples

Those samples are unedited, in the order I wrote them. They are exactly as I put them in my notebook. Nothing to write home about, but I do see some potential in those sentences. Just transposing them from my notebook to the computer was a challenge in that I already wanted to make changes. I held back because I wanted to show how things can go from “eh” to, “Hey, that was pretty good.” Or at the very least, make it better than what it was.

The tough thing to remember when writing is that it is a process. You will never write something perfectly the first time around. You’ll have to write something and then edit and rewrite it. That’s how you get something worth reading.

So let’s see what I can do with a rewrite that combines each individual description into one setting.

Take Two

Rocky outcroppings formed the rugged hillside. In some spots, the bleak rocks stood firm, while in most other areas, they gave way to gravity to tumble down and collect in a pile at the slope's base.

Great pines towered over the landscape, their deep green needles contrasted with the brighter shades of grass that spread beneath them. A graveyard of burned trunks remained standing nearby like pale ghosts compared to their healthy counterparts.

Life, refusing to give up, sprung up anew under these corpses in the forms of vibrant wildflowers and groves of aspens. Hundreds of daisies, each bright like a spring-day sun, grew along the rocky hillside. With their combined efforts, the blooms managed to paint the land yellow. Meanwhile, the aspens added a splash of shimmering green every time a breeze jostled their leaves. The air filled with the sounds of their calming rustling as the wind roamed over the mountain. The gentle gusts carried a chill in them that signaled that the summer would soon be over.

Further down, the mountains gave way to rolling grass hills that stretched for miles into the distant horizon. Up above, fluffy white clouds drifted across a crisp, blue sky casting pockets of shadows over the landscape.

Don’t Stress about the First Draft

It’s very common to get yourself stressed out by a first draft. I do it all the time. We want things to be perfect, but that isn’t the goal of the first draft. This exercise helps show that. My first attempts were all about getting the ideas down. Once I did that, I could figure out the best way to say those ideas. I removed any excess bits that weren’t really helping and focused on the parts I liked the most.

In the second version, I was able to stitch all of the descriptions together. Instead of each description, or even each sentence, being its own thought, they flow together and work as one to paint a picture. I was also able to smooth out some of the rough spots and pick better words while avoiding unneeded repetition.

Exercises like this can be a lot of fun. I certainly enjoyed the view as I wrote. Something like this can be different and gets your mind working in a new way. I definitely recommend heading out into the world, finding a nice spot, and trying to write it down. Even if you don’t plan on sharing it with anybody, the task gets you to focus on all of the different aspects of the view, helping to further cement it in your memories.

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