Lessons In Writing

As a long time copy writer, outdoor writer, technical writer, letter writer and now, blog writer…I’m asked frequently what my process is. Frankly, it’s pretty easy. First and foremost, understand that the “trick” in becoming a good writer is doing it a lot. In my case, daily. The more and varied items you write about the more nimble you become in carving through the work effectively and quickly. From there it becomes a craft, an artform you can apply that pulls the reader through the piece at a pace you set. In it’s most effective application good writing can’t be put down or ignored. When people read good writing they’re captivated and they’re compelled to read-on. “I’ll be with you in just a few minutes once I finish reading this…” is a high standard to write to.

For most, writing is like public speaking…a study in anxiety, trepidation and drudgery.

It need not be any of those things. Adopting a process can make writing fun, rewarding and considerably less stress-filled than just throwing caution to the wind and hoping for the best.

The best “lesson” I ever recieved was from another writer who said, “First I get the paint on the wall and then I try to paint a Picasso.” Valuable advice. Too often people sit down and try to paint a Picasso. That is, they spend an inordinate amount of time laboring over every word and the form of the piece. A perfect introduction can consume hours as the writer starts, stops, scraps and starts over again.

Stop the madness and get the paint on the wall first!

Just start writing. Get the words on the page. They don’t have to be in any particular order but getting the information out, getting started is essential. As you write, leave room for notes as other ideas will pop in and out and it’s incumbent on you, the writer, to capture them immediately when they do.

This is getting the paint on the wall.

Once you have done all you need to create your letter, story, blog, instructions or article, then it’s time to go back and paint a Picasso. That may consume several drafts but you’ll find the process much easier once you have the paint on the wall. You’ll need to be a tough editor knocking out words or entire paragraphs that don’t fit. Resources like Quoteopia! (www.quoteopia.com) are invaluable when you’re looking for a spark of enlightenment or the perfect quote to blend into your writing. There are dozens of online resources available but none of them are a silver bullet to writing success. That will come from you and your investment into how often you write and hard you work at the craft of writing.

Finally, write with economy — there’s no need to beat the reader over the head with needless redundancy or hyper-descriptions that add little to the piece. Particularly in letter writing — be clear, concise, to-the-point. Prose, blogs, some stories, you have far more latitude but economy is still a sound principle. Ads for example can be as short as 3 or four words up to 150 words…rarely any longer except in those god-forsaken advertorials that likely go unread. In advertising, every word has to count otherwise it has to go.

There are no shortcuts to great writing. Adopting a process will be a strong first step in making each writing assignment more palatable and less difficult. And so you know, I took my own advice in writing this…got the paint on the wall, dropped a couple paragraphs and a dozen other words, re-read and polished a couple times and hit the “publish” button on my blog interface to post. Start-to-finish…about 30 minutes.

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