By Stu Leventhal
From your early childhood, you have been training to become a Word Smith. Certainly writing for professional publications is a whole different kettle of fish from turning in grade school essays your parents or older siblings helped you author. Since school, you’ve grown and matured plenty in all kinds of ways aside from your writing, grammar and communication skills. Think of how proud you were when you turned in that history report on Honest Abe Lincoln then a few days later you received your first A+.
Aspiring authors plying their word smith craft in every genre will tell you, it doesn’t matter what you are writing about; fiction, nonfiction, poetry, sci-fi…when writing good, you are going to leave a piece of your past personal history somewhere among the paragraphs. The more of your emotional experiences you leave on the page, the better your writing will be received by your reader. Therefore, everything you do from the time you wake up to turn off the annoying buzz of the alarm clock until the time you fall asleep at night with the TV remote control still in your hand, you are training to be a better writer.
Writing is about expressing one’s self, exposing your feelings, vulnerabilities, fears and dreams. Laying your soul bare is what convinces readers of your sincerity and gives your work value. If you aren’t passionate about your subject, why the heck would you waste your time writing about it? And, more importantly, how can you possibly expect your reader to give a hoot?
Your reader picks up your book haphazardly off a stuffed book shelf or comes across one of your articles while flipping through the pages of a magazine as they sit waiting for the dentist assistant to call their name. More than likely you are only going to have one very quick chance at hooking this reader then you still have to wheel them in. Now you start sparring with them feinting and jabbing, faking a left to the body then throwing a right hook at the head as you try to set them up so you can deliver the knock out punch! Bore them at any time and in a flash, they will slam that book or magazine shut on the very words you poured hours of sweat, tears, thought and worry into then selfishly head back to that bookshelf or magazine rack or worse callously reach for the TV remote control!
Believe me when I say every awaken hour and probably while you are sleeping too, you are preparing yourself to write better. All of one’s experiences contribute to your well of knowledge and heighten your imagination, the two most important areas you need to develop in order to communicate better. Deep down inside, every creative writer knows they are going to have to bring every weapon in their arsenal to the table in order to attract and retain the attention of a suave readership. A creative writer needs to be able to manipulate, get inside someone’s head, sway, deceive, enlighten... You have to become a psychiatrist, scientist, politician, teacher, parent, mentor, lover, student, stalker, co-worker, friend and more from paragraph to paragraph to paragraph. As we mature and mold our character, we also mature and mold the character of our writing. Your personal development and intellectual growth is entwined with the growth of your writing abilities and thus all are constantly evolving together.
Ask any established writer for their most important piece of writing advice and they will all tell you, read and write! Read everything you can get your hands on; every genre, every style about any and every subject. READ! READ! READ! But you have to live too. Reading will expand your horizons, add to your knowledge, open up your mind, engage your creativity and take you places you could not hope to go without living hundreds of lives. But nothing produces more compelling writing material than pulling from one’s real life experiences.
Preparing, training, studying and learning are all great but, eventually we have to take the plunge. We have to start writing. Nothing, absolutely nothing is better for developing a writer’s skills and abilities than writing. Practice makes perfect. Practice is great for building all skills. In creative writing practice builds confidence. It allows a creative writer to experiment, test the waters, to go where no man has gone before. Be prepared and expect to hit some rough patches as you attempt to tackle new writing techniques and tougher subjects.
One can never write or type, scribble short hand or even try to talk into a tape recorder as fast as you can think. That is why we are always going to get frustrated because we’ve lost track of what we were trying to say. Know that trying to force the words to come usually has the opposite results, making it harder to write as well as tougher at times to focus one’s thoughts in the direction one would like them to go. The only solace I can give you is we’ve all been there. You will come out of it and when you resume writing the words will read better than ever!
Writing isn’t an easy walk through the park. It is hard work just to figure out exactly what it is you wish to say. It is even more difficult to express your thoughts on paper in a way that others will find value in. But, writing and writing then writing some more is the only way you will ever get better. And, yes you are going to have to re-write, edit, cut words out, replace words, shuffle sentences and re-arrange paragraphs before your text begins to take shape and becomes coherent enough to show to someone else. And it is still such a long way from being good enough to expect people to pay money to read your work!
Writing is not a get rich quick scheme. Writers, even the rich and famous authors, pay their dues and more. You will spend many hours, days, months and years alone with just your thoughts and a pen or keyboard. You will second guess yourself and scrutinize your work. You’ll rip up whole manuscripts that you worked months on! You will sit and stare at your blank computer screen in frustration and disgust wondering if the words will ever flow freely again. This is the world of the Word Meister. If you stick it out and keep on writing you will grow better and better, write faster and faster and your 1st drafts will begin to need less and less rewriting. You will eventually develop the skills to write at a level you never dreamed possible.
I cannot even begin to describe the places your writing will take you. Once you’ve experienced the feelings of accomplishment and elation that can only come from writing something you are really proud of. When you get to that place, you will understand that there are few possibilities in one’s life from which you can feel that feeling. Thus, the best advice I can give a young scribe is to keep writing creative writer and challenge one’s self at every turn. I want you to feel that feeling! It has nothing to do with getting that first royalty check from your publisher but everything to do with knowing that you’ve finally gotten it right. You have arrived. You are a great writer and there is nothing anyone but you can say or do to change that.