Posted by: Liz Massey | February 21, 2008

Building your grid: Engage in “deliberate practice”

Today, we start a new feature section “Building Your Grid,” which focuses on how to build what Julia Cameron has called the “creative grid”— that daily regimen of activities that facilitate consistent, reliable creative output.

One of the most basic building blocks for creative success in any discipline is practice. Musicians and athletes are explicitly encouraged to practice their craft regularly, while other creative domains occasionally step away from this encouragement to debate the efficacy of practice vs. inborn talent.

Sherri Fisher recently blogged about some research into expert-level performance by K. Anders Ericsson, professor of psychology at Florida State University, that points to the importance of a particular type of practice regimen—one that Ericsson calls “deliberate practice.”

According to Ericsson, experts engage in deliberate practice by:

  1. Investing a considerable amount of time in solo rehearsal. Successful concert pianists logged nearly 10,000 hours of solo practice—nearly five times that of the serious amateur pianists that he studied.
  2. Focusing on a gradual refinement of their performance. Masters expect it to take time to introduce a new technique or tweak a particular element of their style.
  3. Seeking out regular, immediate feedback. Many experts started their career at the elbow of well-regarded coaches or teachers; what those professionals bring to practice is the ability to design activities for the expert-to-be that are designed “for the sole purpose of effectively improving specific aspects of an individual’s performance,” Ericsson asserts.
  4. Creating opportunities to organize and utilize key domain-specific concepts and encode them in memory in a way that allows rapid retrieval. Experts don’t just know “more” than non-experts, they know “differently.” Their practice regimens have expanded their storehouse of potential courses of action, and they’re able to assess these options quickly.

Ericsson’s research has enormous import for even casual creative hobbyists. Many artists, at some point, reach a plateau in their work—perhaps they’ve reached the limits of self-taught natural talent, or progress towards artistic goals has slowed to a crawl.

To open up this logjam, look for opportunities to practice specific techniques that are a stretch for you—and find a source of constructive, knowledgeable feedback. Get into the habit of mindful self-evaluation before, during and after each of your projects. Learning to make nuanced distinctions between what works in your project and what doesn’t—and to what degree—is the beginning of a practice routine that can shift you into creative overdrive.





  1. […] Certainly, training has many benefits for an artist who wants to further his or her abilities, and deliberate practice is one of the more certain paths to creative mastery. But it’s displays such as these two […]

  2. Amen

    Interesting that ‘fact’ that professional pianists clock up up to five times more practise than non-professional pianists.

    I think it’d be useful for beginners in any self-disciplined creative activity if, maybe, you might think about expanding the self-evaluation part & it’s intimate link with working out why failure, why success?

    Great blog.

  3. […] as I’ve noted earlier, how one practices matters. We’re used to thinking about “practice makes […]

  4. […] think about worthy projects to focus one’s attention on, and which allow one to engage in “deliberate practice” to build skill and proficiency in a chosen discipline. Retreats or workshops are one way to […]

  5. […] post, but a good one to re-read when you’re having an “I’m not good enough” sort of day. Practice your craft long enough, and you can be good […]

  6. […] fact that mastery in any field, especially the creative arts, doesn’t come from talent alone; deliberate practice – about 10,000 hours worth – is needed to get really good at just about […]

  7. […] clearly a winner, as I’ve gone three days with no hits. I recently came across this fantastic post There is also has some amazing links there, so thumbs up to this […]

  8. […] Attending to practice and technique is one of the elements of creative momentum, and I thought it would be interesting, a little over one month into the process of beginning to play again, to see how I’m doing in relation to some of the advice I previously passed along related to fluency and “deliberate practice.” […]

  9. […] in which writers were being asked to collaborate with a comic artist, Tohm Curtis, to help with a deliberate practice […]

  10. […] Overall, the post underscores the value of deliberate practice. […]

  11. Hi there to every one, as I am truly keen of reading this weblog’s post to be updated
    on a regular basis. It consists of nice stuff.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: