Practice is important, but just going through the motions is a waste of time.
When I jump on the motorcycle, I can twist the throttle and go if that’s all I choose to do. In the “it’s just like riding a bike” sense, it’s that easy. Motorcycles want to go in a straight line.
Then come those pesky turns to mess it all up.
A rider needs to look through the turns. In regular riding, his knees should hug the gas tank. He should know when to roll on and off the throttle, how much brake to apply, how far to lean, and when to up- or downshift. It sounds like a lot, but in time it becomes natural, and when a turn doesn’t go quite as planned, it’s time to break it down and figure out what can be done better next time (especially if the rider just slammed into a tree on the corner).
This doesn’t take obstacles into account, either. Ride behind motorcycles long enough, and eventually you’ll catch a rider doing some lazy swerves back and forth in his lane, or performing sudden changes in his riding line. It may be simple boredom, it may be he’s trying to warm up or clean his tires, or it may very well be the rider getting a feel for his bike. Riders can run over rabbits and squirrels, but if a child or large animal runs into the street, the rider needs to have his avoidance technique down pat.
Practice, practice, practice, and study the result.
Karate works the same way. It’s not unusual to see someone just walk through a kata and throw some weak-ass punches. They may know “step into a front stance, throw a right front kick, shift 90° left, middle block,” but it doesn’t mean it’s going to look good.
To improve our karate, we will examine our hand positions before and after techniques, or the angle or depth of our stances. We will perform our kata in front of a mirror or video camera. We ask ourselves if that last kick would have been effective, or what exercises might improve our speed, flexibility, and/or power. It’s not just about getting the technique out there, it’s about getting the technique correct.
And yes, this applies to writing.
Dashing off a draft, calling a work done and uploading it to Amazon isn’t doing the writer, the work, or the reader any favors.
Writers study the craft by reading and rewriting their own work as well as reading the work of others. Word choice, narrative tricks, plot, and characterization are just a few of the tools a writer wants to master. All that grammar and sentence structure our English teachers forced down our throats? Yeah, kind of important, too. Know the rules, then know when to break them.
We have to examine our work with an objective eye. This is where reading a work aloud comes into play, or why some writers will set a draft aside for a few days or a few weeks before coming back to it. Any writer who believes their work is perfect isn’t looking hard enough.
So yes, by all means, keep punching those keys.
But punch them with purpose.