Wednesday Writing #1: Wisdom from the Pen
“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” Mark Twain
Have you ever sat down to write and had nothing come to mind? No words will come or, just as bad, only the wrong words surface in your mind. Very few writers can boast that they always have something – and something worthwhile – to write about. Sitting for hours in front of a blank screen or white piece of paper won’t make the words flow.
Sometimes, the best thing to do when you can’t write is not to try at all but, instead, to read. I find quotes about writing by writers to be particularly inspiring. I’ll sometimes go on line and search for quotes from classic and contemporary writers to remind myself that everyone has had bad days.
Even knowing that you have to take with a grain of salt what writers say about themselves and their profession, I enjoy getting a peek at their passions, frustrations, ups and downs, and how they dealt with their critics. Keep in mind, though, that it’s easy to get carried away in reading quotations for hours and never writing anything of your own!
So keep an eye on the clock and permit yourself a limited amount of time. Then, get back to your writing. Because, sometimes, you just have to get down and write – even if you don’t have much to say.
Write Daily: Social networking sites provide you with the opportunity to write short bits as often as you want. MySpace, Facebook and even Twitter – where you only have 140 characters to express yourself – provide an opportunity to get your thoughts out there. Some people write about nothing much – “I’m bored, I just made myself a P&B sandwich” – but you can use these tools to practice your writing and keep people reading your posts by making them interesting. Surf the Internet for information on topics of interest to you and post these tidbits daily…you’ll soon have a following of like-minded readers.
Practice: If you are something of an expert on a topic – geographic area, hobby, profession – consider contributing to public sites such as Wikipedia. It is good writing practice as you want to showcase your skills at their best and it is easy to be ‘web published’. Your writing will be reviewed for accuracy and, except for their writing guidelines, the style will be all your own.
Writer’s Block III: If you find that you can’t get past a sentence, a paragraph or a page in your writing — as in you keep rewriting, rewriting, rewriting — cut and paste the troublesome section into a new document. Then begin writing the next section without worrying how good the first one is. You can always go back and review and rewrite later when you’ve given yourself time to progress in your writing.
Writer’s Block II: When you are having trouble writing, do related tasks that may inspire you. These include reading about the craft of writing (see writing resources for some ideas) and playing word games. You will find many ideas in the ‘Writing Resources’ section of this website. There are more writers’ blogs and web sites than you can count to get you thinking. Try various word games to get your juices flowing: alliteration (thrifty travelers tramp through throngs of trashy thrones), find all synonyms to a word without using a thesaurus (travel: voyage, trip, tramp, journey, etc.), and writing your own definitions to favorite words. In the same way that we sometimes remember something only once we stop thinking about it, inspiration for writing often comes only when we stop trying so hard.
Use all of your senses: Practice perceiving the world with each of your five senses. Writers are always being told to demonstrate what they want the readers to feel: show it don’t say it. As humans feel using every sense so should the people you write about. Writers tend to focus a lot on sight to the detriment of our other senses. Stretch yourself by describing the tart taste of the unripe apple, the sound of a gardener whistling, the smell of toast burning or the feel of the prickly grass underfoot. Each of these evokes images and, often connected to them, feelings your writing can transmit to the reader.
Writer’s Block I: When you just can’t get started on your writing – whether it is an article, an essay, a book, a chapter, a short story, a news story, or an assignment – just start with ‘Dear Mom’ (or John, or Dad, or whomever). Then write her a letter about your topic. By the third or fourth paragraph you should have relaxed enough to have found your voice or style as your writing begins to flow. Go back, edit out Dear Mom and review your writing. Then don’t be afraid to rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.