Writing Precision and Marching Band

We’re gearing up for another weekend of marching band.  Saturday will be packed with a parade performance in the morning, a noon field show and a second field show competition in the evening.  The kids will be gone from 7:45am until midnight.  Hopefully they’ll come home with a few new trophies.

Last Saturday they won first in their class…out of two bands.  This Saturday evening, they will again be in a class (A) with two bands.  Maybe first doesn’t sound so impressive when thought of this way, but consider the following.

Last year at this same evening competition, they outperformed every band except two–including the bands in AA and AAA–and garnered the third highest score out of 15 against schools much bigger than theirs.  Now that is impressive.

Traditionally, our tiny band from our tiny town rules the field.  One year, we tied for fifth place in the finals at a multi-state event.  To even earn a spot in the finals, we had to score in the top ten out of 37 bands.  Our band of 60 outperformed bands with 200 marchers.  Another year at another competition, we won the sweepstakes award, which means outscoring every band in the competition regardless of class.

I could belabor the point, taking you through our trophies–which number so many the showcase broke under the weight a year or so back–but I think you get the point.  Quantity doesn’t matter.  Quality does.

Not just on the field, but also in our writing.

We won those trophies through precision.  Our music was crisp.  Our marching in sync.  Our color guard snappy.  The overall flow was perfect.

Likewise, writers do not get agents with sloppy sentences, wordy passages and poorly developed characters.  Authors do not get publishing contracts without honing their skills.  Books do not get buzz without compelling storylines.

Our marching band pulls 40 hour weeks in the summer.  Once school starts, they beat the teachers to school and march outside in the cold fall temps before the sun rises.  They continue to put in about 15 hours of practice each week.

Let me ask you, dear writers, how much time do you devote to your craft?  Are you out to win the trophy?  If so, how do you create precision in your words?  Does the success of others drive you to succeed, or does someone else’s good news make you aware of your own shortfalls?  How do you combat the urge to throw in the flag and march off the field for good?

Curious minds want to know.

4 responses to “Writing Precision and Marching Band

  1. Sometimes I write at the pace of a turtle who recently was run over by an old VW Beetle (something the turtle might survive, in other words).

  2. ah…marching band. doing that thoughout my college experience truly taught me how to prioritize, organize, and be efficient with my time

    in terms of writing, for me, setting a word goal for the day (usually 500) works. it’s a little different on editing days. somehow, i don’t need much motivation to reread and nitpick. i guess for that it’s capping how much time i spend on the edit before i throw it to the crit group to tear apart. 🙂

    • Yes, there s nothing quite like the dedication of marching band…. I think it can teach a great many life lessons.

      I’m with you on editing. I still haven’t figured out if I like editing more than writing. And not because I like to tear other people’s writing apart. Yours in particular. You have such a beautiful way with words.

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