I want to explore aspects of practicing that may not be familiar to everyone. I'm going to focus on artistic practice, but my observations apply to other pursuits like athleticism. Mastery of most anything is benefited by practice. The eventual mastery is a reward. I will share other rewards that come from practicing.
I am now of the opinion that practice of artistic pursuits should be performed on a daily basis. Do something! I now write and photograph daily. It is not practical to practice some artistic efforts daily. Use the “off days” to research and plan your efforts. Promote your work on the these days. Unless your are phenomenally naturally talented, of which few of us are, you will benefit from daily practice.
There is a progressive chain of benefits that come from ongoing, preferably daily, practice. The first is that you are forced to focus on your work. Life is busy. There is lots to do, and practice keeps the spark of artistic endeavour alive. Communicate this to the people in your life. They will learn that you need that time to practice. A habit of practice is formed, people learn to respect this, and the desire to pursue your art is kept alive.
The outcome of focused practice, especially in the creative arts, is the realization of new ideas and techniques. I am constantly thinking about the blog articles I will write in the future. I peculate ideas and ponder where I can take themes that I've recently encountered or new themes that I want to explore with fresh eyes. My daily photography prompts me to be always evaluating the landscape for photograph opportunities. Practice nudges me to think and look about the world in a way that I normally would not.
Ongoing practice creates a stream of artistic output. This output may be rough on the edges and unfinished relative to your big goals. Don't discount the creations of your practice! They will serve as a portfolio of your work. Some will be better than you imagine. Others may be reworked in the future, leading you to the artistic output you are desiring. Some output will be blatant mistakes. This is what we call learning. I've found that the mistakes are far outnumbered by the gems. Keep the output of your practice. Honor your progression as an artist. Your “practiced” creations are more important than you can imagine now.
In summary, the unsuspected rewards of ongoing practice are the continued focus on your craft as your form a habit, getting people used to your pursing your craft, the development of new ideas and techniques, and the creation of a portfolio of your creations. The life of an artist, and for that matter, and athlete, is more about a journey than it is about a destination. Practice is the path of the journey.