Posts Tagged With: writing tips

Moving Day! Welcome to My New Blog!

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To all my loyal subscribers who may somehow be subscribed to a blog that hasn’t had new content in over a year … you’ll be glad to know I’ve moved to a new blog. Or relieved. Or frightened? I don’t own your emotions, you do you. Just keep up with my many new wordings done over at my new site, Write-Minded.

Thank you, readers! Keep reading!

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Ten Easy Steps to Becoming a Better Writer

Do me a favor. Take your hand off the mouse, close your eyes, and breathe in and out. Relax yourself. The internet’s probably got you a little worked up at the moment. It does that to us. That’s how it works. So calm down. Deep breaths. Now take the time to read and appreciate this message. You may not agree with me – so examine why, and share your opinion with me. Your opinion is valuable*.

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Ten Easy Steps to Becoming a Better Writer


1. Compare yourself.

To people, this is destructive. You should never compare yourself to another person. You can’t weigh yourself against others, because their scales are different; they’ve had different experiences and opportunities and there’s no fair way to compare two people, so don’t do it. (And as a Christian, to me, this means not to weigh myself by the scales of man, by any of man’s grounds for judgment, and to weigh myself by God’s scales alone.)

And yet, my first instruction is to compare yourself to other writers?”So,” you’re wondering, “has this guy lost his mind?” I will neither confirm nor deny that allegation. I object on the grounds of relevancy.

Yes. I want you to compare yourself to other artists. This is something I do regularly. You get ideas this way. You learn this way. You get challenged this way. You improve this way. It is fair to compare yourself to another artist as long as you’re objective and use a sense of proportion.

If you’re anything like me, you’re so insecure that sometimes, a little complacency is welcome. But that’s no healthier than insecurity. Instead of trying to be satisfied with yourself the way you are, be confident in your way forward. Admit that you’re not perfect, confidently, and see how others are better and how they can teach you and how you can improve. Learn confidently.

Just try it and see for yourself.


2. Wait for something.

Writing takes time. All things in life that are worth having are worth waiting for. Nowadays, we forget that. Everything’s a rush. We lose our patience waiting for music to download, if kids even have to wait at all anymore. Who remembers the days when we had to wait half-an-hour at least for one song to download, or for a computer program to install?

Try your patience. Go to the busiest restaurant you know with the slowest service you know, order their most complicated dish, and wait. Go alone. Don’t bring your phone or a book or anything or anyone. Put away your attention deficit disorder. Sit tight and enjoy the wait. Let the world go faster than you, it’s all right, it won’t hurt you. Just reflect.


3. Do nothing.

This is just as hard and just as important as waiting for something, but here’s the catch: you don’t have a goal, you don’t have something to look forward to. There is no purpose, no objective, no reason. Life doesn’t need a purpose. Stop acting like a hyperactive child.

I know it can be hard, so very hard, to let yourself do nothing. It’s why when you lie down you’re so tired and yet have trouble sleeping. It’s why you live on coffee. Internet, television, the rat race – our brains are so overstimulated they just–won’t–turn–off. Well, turn it off, all of it, the computer, the TV, the phone. Free yourself from the shackles of the establishment, man. Forget you live in the 21st century. Enjoy some leisure that isn’t prescribed for you.

Go for a walk or a hike, or lie down in the grass (not on a blanket on the grass, but on the grass) and watch the clouds pass, or sit under a tree, or heck, climb a tree! Wherever you go, stay there, for an hour or two or three, and just do nothing, and enjoy it.


4. Do everything.

Put everything on hold, and do all of those thongs you’ve been putting on hold for way too long. This isn’t the day to mow the lawn, this is the day to fix those leaky faucets, paint that room, build that shed, and anything else that you’ve been “meaning to get around to.” No napping, no internet or television (those keep coming up!), no shirking. Get to it!


5. Goof off like it’s an art form.

Be a kid again, play with your imagination, play with kids; surely you must have a child or sibling or cousin or niece or nephew or grandchild or a friend’s kid under twelve you could babysit for a while. Let them teach you how to recapture the bold, carefree spirit of youth.


6. Cry.

Don’t hold it back. Open your wounds. Feel the pain. Love the pain. Access, identify and understand your emotions.


7. Write.

To people you haven’t spoken to in a long time. Don’t message them on Facebook or send them an e-mail. Write to them, you sissy. Write them a letter. Write your sweetheart a love letter. Write your parents a thank-you note. Write to your grandmother, a soldier overseas, a retired friend in a rest home who probably doesn’t get much mail. It’s okay that your letter won’t get to them the instant you’re done writing. It’s okay that you won’t get a letter back for a week or more, or ever.


8. Write and re-write.

A scene, in your current project, or an abandoned project, or something old and done with and maybe even published. Explore the possibilities. What else could have happened? How else could it have happened? Who else could have been there? What other viewpoints could you use? How could you reframe the exact same events and dialogue to make it read differently? Experiment with plot and prose and form. Just have fun.


9. Do something worth writing.

Put your thinking cap on and run a marathon, go spelunking, or go hiking, or maybe mountain biking, bee-hive hiving, deepsea diving, tractor-trailer driving, see the world or see an opera, attend a signing and meet Oprah,


* (10.) Share your opinion.

The footnote is the tenth step. Sharing your opinion with me (or anyone, here or anywhere else), opening a debate with friends and discussing views, will make you a better writer. If you can be calm and objective, express yourself clearly and efficiently, and overcome the fear of speaking up, you’ve contributed in three ways to your development as a writer.


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The Artist and the Scientist, and the Secret of Balancing Them

There are many sides to writing. It can’t be confined. Some call it an art; some call it a science. So which is it?

Writing requires creativity and vision. You’ll need open eyes to look at the world, to see what it looks like on the face of it, to see what it looks like underneath, and to see what it looks like inside of yourself. An artist could sit in their yard for a lifetime and never run out of stories to write, because all around them everything they see has a thousand aspects, and a million ideas inside it. You need to be able to look at things from all these different angles. Sometimes, writing requires some degree of omnipotence to keep an eye on all the thoughts coming together—and sometimes you just pull back and let them flow into place.

Writing requires dimension and precision. You have to know what you’re writing about, and how; you need to understand the subject and how to effectively approach it and describe it. You need to know what you’re seeing and how to get it down on paper according to your vision, to use that vision to its fullest potential. You need to know how to produce an effect. A scientist could sit in their yard for a lifetime and never run out of subjects to categorize and monitor, because they could identify every tree and weed and bug and bird and spend the rest of their lives recording their lifecycles and the changes wrought in them by the seasons and the years.

The fact is, writing is both an art and a science. You’ll need balance—more than anything. You’ll need to know when to think and when to feel. You’ll need to understand when to let your tender, sentimental nature take over, and when to be cold and calculating. Give yourself over completely to the artist and you’ll end up with chaos—yield to the scientific side and you’ll end up with sterile, insipid chaff.

Basically, you have to be pretty schizophrenic. But it knew that, didn’t it, precious? Yesss . . . we knews it, precious, we did . . .

The Scientist

This is the part of you that was taught in schoolrooms to bleed literature dry of every nebulous interpretation of meaning that they can fabricate. This is the part that tends to function as a spellcheck while you’re writing, or critiques your plot, and probably it’s the one muttering, “This is crap, this is crap,” while you’re trying to write. If you’re experiencing writers’ block, you can count on it that the soulless, unfeeling scientist in you is to blame.

It can get be a hindrance at times, can’t it? Unfortunately, you still need it. Believe it or not, you do need a little logic and rationality when you’re writing, and the scientific part of you keeps that in check. By the traditional myth of brain lateralization, this would be the left brain; reason and critical thinking, all the technical and scientific aspects of the writing process.

The Artist

You know when you’ve come to that exciting part, and a little voice is going, “Oh boy! oh boy! oh boy!” while you’re writing? Yup, this is that voice. And when you’re killing a character or letting them find true love at last, the artist is inside you, crying. This is the one that’s putting the scientist’s stores of knowledge to good use, hitting on unlikely combinations and putting them together like a jigsaw puzzle. This is the little genius in you, the one that flies into a frenzy and writes like mad when you finally break through that creative block. The artist is the one who appreciates the beauty in things.

Unlike the scientist, the artist isn’t taught. This part of you isn’t developed in the schoolroom, unless your mind is wandering from the lesson. Typically, this part is developed in the woods, or on a busy city street, or other places where you’re “alone,” that is, away from the distractions of your everyday life. The artist is an autodidact; it learns. Nobody can teach you to be an artist. Really, being an artist is something you’re born into. But I do believe that there’s an artist in all of us: it’s just developed sooner in some than others. If you can discover that part of yourself, open yourself to it, free the artist within and let them learn, let yourself dream, then you can learn any art you’re called to. Even if it’s not something traditionally viewed as an art—if you bring creativity into it, anthing can be an art.

How to Balance Them

If you’re up against writers’ block, a good way to get around it—and a good way, in general, to avoid it—is to stop thinking and start feeling; suppress the scientist, and let your artist free. Just write—let the scientist take over in revision.

At least, that’s what people say.

Me, I don’t believe in it. Sure, it works, but that’s not a solution—it’s avoiding the problem. It’s the easy way out, and for a lot of people, that’s great. So yeah, if you want the easy way out of it, there you go. More power to you. Off with you, go write something.

But you want to know the secret? I do have one up my sleeve here. I’ve already said that writing is both an art and a science; well, I can reduce it to just one word. Writing is a discipline.

That’s right. Being a writer is like being a Jedi. Or, you know, a master of the martial arts. You have to be in touch with the techniques; but also with the spirit of the thing. But above all else, writing is about balance. Letting the two sides take turns at dominance isn’t balance. Balance isn’t fifty-fifty, it’s hundred-hundred. Give free reign to both sides, give them both power and control, and let them work together. This can only be achieved through practice, determination, and discipline.

You’re just a writer. I am too, and I may not be a master, but I believe this: To become a master of my art, I have to become something higher than human, something that transcends the everyday. I have to become an artist, a free-thinker; I have to dare to look at the world in ways no one else will, ways they’ll tell me aren’t there. Sometimes, I have to look like a lunatic. But inside, I have to be a monk: I have to find a way to work with both my mind and heart.

What do you think? Am I a genius, a philosopher, an artist—or a lunatic?


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The Only Ten Rules You’ll Ever Need to Write

Do you want to the secrets of a writer? Do you want one quick, simple resource to tell you all you’ll ever need to know about writing? Do you want all your questions about writing answered in one place? Then this article here is everything you want, and more. Read on.

The Only Rules You’ll Ever Need to Write

Photo Credit: Audringje via Compfight cc  (altered)
Photo Credit: Audringje via Compfight cc (altered)
  1. Make your own rules.
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You Know What? Don’t Write What You Know

You’ve probably heard it a thousand times; we’ve had it fed to us for years. It’s what any creative writer who’s never written a story in his life says. Anyone who has never had an original or otherwise worthwhile thought on the art of writing has probably said it.

“Write what you know”—what idiot came up with that?

A Brief History of the Phrase

Like most aphorisms, it’s difficult to trace it to its source. Some credit it to Twain, some to Hemingway; certainly it has an established history at least that far back. One of the oldest, and best, quotes I came across was written by Howard Nemerov (1920-1991):

“Write what you know. That should leave you with a lot of free time.”

On Answerbag I came across a helpful person who posted a handy reference here citing several articles and authors on the adage.

You’ll notice that all the authors quoted there, and most if not all of the authors you’ll be able to find who have said anything about the adage, were active past the second half of the 19th century. Probably because up until that point in history, writers were generally smart enough to avoid trying to tell anyone how to write. Twain was a notable exception, which lends another shade of plausibility to the theory that he coined the phrase.

The Misunderstanding

Wherever it started, this platitude has been so long seized upon misconstrued by the laity, so long twisted and abused, that’s it’s true meaning is unrecognizable, buried deep in a confusion of idle misrepresentation and ignorant reinterpretation. It’s nothing now but a sad mockery of the truth.

I speak harshly; it’s not that I deny anyone their right to their opinion if they believe in this phrase in its modern meaning, but call it a pet peeve, I don’t like seeing a misunderstood “truism” forced down artists’ throats.

The Truth

Want the truth? The point the phrase is really trying to get across is, “Write what you feel.” It’s not a reprimand for writing what you’ve never seen, not a command to write about the places you’ve been or the things you’ve done, not a criticism or a rule, but a simple truth. That’s what writing is all about. Writing is a channeling of what you feel. It’s about the emotions. Anything you don’t know you can learn–but emotion can’t be taught. You have to feel it to write it. That’s the point.

In the common sense, that you must literally have knowledge of whatever you write about, I prefer to phrase it “Know what you write.” If you want to write about something you don’t know, because it’s a fitting representation of what you feel–then you research and you learn.

But the best advice I can offer you is this: ignore adages on the art of writing. As you can see, they hardly ever give you the whole story. It goes against the very art. Find your own understanding of the art, form your own opinions, and write your own rules.

Writing isn’t something you should let anyone teach you but yourself. Accept suggestions—advice—anything but rules. That’s the beauty of writing. There are no rules.

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