What I Know So Far (About Writing)

January 25, 2011 § Leave a comment


One of the most useful things about blogging that I’ve found is that it has the ability to organize thoughts that would float around, uncorraled, without a central space to put them in. I think it allows me to report my own knowledge and experiences, without having to operate under the guise of Extreme Expert. With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned about writing so far, in the interest of organization and to hopefully make a conversation about writing with y’all out there.

1. Open up. There’s a line from a poem I love (from this book) that goes show us what you don’t want anyone to see. I think that with any kind of writing, it’s scary to think about putting the most vulnerable, hypocritical, human part of ourselves out there for the world to see, but I know it’s the only way to write an honest reflection of myself and the world I live in. More and more I’m realizing that the most effective pieces of writing show a keen awareness for moments that are small and often overlooked. It’s those incredibly individual touches that make an author authentic and worth reading.

2. Put your own spin on it. What can be said that will get people’s attention—and keep it there? What I’ve put for tip #1 seems to help a lot, but just putting it down isn’t enough–it has to be a unique take on your subject of choice, not just another endless, emotional rant. I think as a beginning writer, it’s easy to feel insecure that what I have to say isn’t really that important, so it’s easy to hide behind the big, velvet curtain of cliché and hope it will be enough. It never is. So I have to step outside into the sunshine, take a risk, and think for myself.

3. Have a goal. Broad goals (like the ones I posted about here) are helpful, but sometimes thinking small will do the trick, too. I get through the day’s allotted writing time faster if I set even the tiniest goal, even a simple or silly one, like: I will write this whole page without using the the phrase ‘gravy boat’. Seriously! Anything that takes my mind off of bigger, scarier things (what if this is all bad? what if I never finish this story?) and makes writing seem easy and fun improves my mood–and hopefully my writing.

4. Buy or decorate a journal and keep it nearby.Writing every day can be tough. Most days, I force myself to push through it, avoid Facebook, and use the ‘gravy boat’ trick. But there are days, every once and awhile, even when I am trying my hardest, nothing comes. I used to just give up and storm off. Which was (not surprisingly) not very productive. Now, I keep a journal near my desk. When I’m feel like I’m about to throw something, I grab the journal and write in it. It doesn’t even matter what it’s about, really. Even if I don’t get very far on the piece I’m working on, at least I’m spending the time writing. Then, the next day, I come back with a clean slate and start over.

5. Go do something else. Even though I try to write every day, doing the same thing over and over can get boring. Especially since Google is constantly wearing away at my ability to concentrate. So I write a little bit, then go outside and lay under the picnic table and count ants. Or (when I’m feeling dirt averse) read a book that’s completely different from the stuff I normally read. Or I call my mom. I just do something to shake life up a bit. New experiences keep us sharp, right?

So, that’s it. Nothing new or profound, but it’s what works for me. What do you do to stay on track?

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