Friday, March 8, 2013

4 Tips That Will Improve Yer Writing

When I was a young artist I heard an instructor say, "It takes a thousand bad drawings to make a good one." This was such a liberating idea because it helped me get loose and not worry about trying to do great work right off the bat. It inspired me to be productive so that the first really good drawing would be sooner than later.

This is not to say that those first drawings were awful. There were elements in many of my early drawings that to this day I find interesting, even impressive. For the most part the draftsmanship and execution failed to attain the heights toward which the concepts aspired. I was an amateur.

The point here is that one suggestion made an immense difference in my life as a young artist. I didn't need twenty or forty tips to set my pen on fire. And this morning I am not going to outline fifty or one hundred things you should do to become a better writer. Rather, I will share four. If one of these connects with you and it changes your life, pass it on.

Advice For Beginning Writers

1. Write every day.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: A writer is one who writes, not one who simply talks about writing. You don't have to answer to me on this, or to anyone else for that matter. Either you are writing or you are not writing.

It can be journal writing, recording dreams, blogging, writing poetry -- whatever it is you are earnest about it. You set aside a space in time to put words on paper, or onto a document in your laptop, whatever. Just do it. No one has to know that you're writing, or what you're writing for that matter. Just write.

2. Get assignments.
There are all kinds of publications that print work by beginning writers. Some may even put a little cash in your pocket. Getting assignments will help you in a number of critical ways. First, you will learn how to write in a context. If you are writing for the newspaper, there is a certain tone and style for reviews or news stories and a different kind of style for the opinion page. Second, you will find that there are benefits to having deadlines. Learning how to meet deadlines demonstrates your reliability which will help you get more assignments. Third, you will learn how to work with an editor, or how to deal with editors who mess with your beautiful words. If you can't handle that...

3. Produce excellent work.
As you write, constantly challenge yourself to learn new ways to express an idea. Keep stretching. Learn how to edit and tighten sentences. Learn how to convey abstract ideas.

A young writer friend recently began sending me short stories to read. He has never attempted fiction and I agreed to look at a couple. I've read five now and here is what impressed me. Each was written in a different way. Some were first person, some third person. One was told from the point of view of a nine-or-ten-year-old. One was eighty-percent dialogue with almost no action. Another more description and drama. In short, he's taking steps toward being serious about the craft.

4. Find a mentor.
I met John at a writer's group in the Twin Cities. After a couple meetings I recognized that he had been where I wanted to go. I had been writing for several years but had yet to reach the first rung of a ladder. John showed me the way. He reviewed my articles and pointed out their shortcomings. He took time to show me how to present my manuscripts for consideration by publications. He challenged me to not settle for mediocre when producing work that I cared about. 

I suppose the Eastern adage applies here: when the pupil is ready the master will appear. Write every day, get assignments and sweat drops of blood in your effort to produce superior work... and when the veil is lifted you'll begin to see the light.

Have fun along the way. Don't take yourself too serious yet. It's a long and narrow way. Write on!


My Inner Chick said...

Superb Tips!

Here is one of my fave. quotes by Natalie Goldberg:

“Take out another notebook, pick up another pen, and just write, just write, just write. In the middle of the world, make one positive step. In the center of chaos, make one definitive act. Just write. Say yes, stay alive, be awake. Just write. Just write. Just write.”

ENNYMAN said...

thanks for dropping in... yes, and Just Write.