Writing is easyRobyn Bloch - 2012-02-09
Gene Fowler said it best: “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” And this is a case in point. I have been staring at that quote for 20 minutes thinking, “How can I express the next thing? Wait, what is the next thing? What am I trying to say? Hmmm, maybe I should hang out on the internet for a while. No! No. I won’t. I must write. I must, must write …”
Hemingway wrote standing up. (Or, if “A Moveable Feast” is to be believed, he wrote in extreme poverty while oxymoronically eating oysters and drinking red wine in low-lit Parisian cafes — it is unclear whether he stood and did this or not.)Toni Morrison wrote on the train to and from work. Rushdie wrote his masterpiece, “Midnight’s Children”, over 10 years while working for newspapers and ad agencies (he penned the “Naughty but Nice” slogan for cream cakes).
But these things always sound romantic after the fact. They’re all famous Nobel Prize winners and Fatwa of death recipients. Before becoming that cool, these authors actually had to do the worst thing ever: write. Granted, the type of writing they do (or did) is out of most people’s talent and reach but we’ve got to start somewhere; thus, the blog — which has become not so much the platform for the irrelevant ramblings of teenagers and conspiracy theorists anymore, but a flume for superb writing, renown and, ultimately, coolness (also, cash, which is good).
But every blogger gets blocked, either before or during the writing process. Here are a few ideas to keep the good words flowing.
Firstly, blogging requires you to write the equivalent of a novel a year, just like any other writer trying to live off the trade. That means that you need to be posting something every few days, if not every day. And this is tedious and tiresome. Some days you just don’t have any ideas, not a sausage, nada, zilch. Your cup runneth nothing. The up side to this is that you get to skulk around and drink lots of coffee and smoke a lot and generally look the part. But gone are the days of Keats and the boys where you could lounge around or stroll the grounds deep in thought. So, when ideas happen they need to be noted down. And not on an old telephone bill or the back of your hand; keep notes on your phone, or, if you’re into old-school-cool, in a notebook. Try to hone in on a good title. Take a moment to craft it in your notes so that when you get back to it you are excited about it and want to take it further.
When doing the actual writing, there are several approaches. One is the free-writing method. This is when you simply write, just getting everything down and not worrying too much about style. Then you go back and edit it so that it reads well. This is good for people who self-censor or are overly finicky to the detriment of actually getting the words on the screen. Self-censorship is big one. This usually happens to writers that are not confident yet and so worry ever sentence till it’s dull and narrow, or has the humanity stripped off it. Free-writing can give a writer room to play and might bring out something brilliant otherwise not considered.
Writing is ultimately an exposing act and I think that’s what makes it challenging to write and excellent to read when it’s done well. You want the writer in the writing. This does not, however, mean that you need to waffle. Hemingway stripped his writing to its bones — I challenge you to find an adjective in his writing — and he still shone through so strongly that, even though his style is deceptively simple, no one can successfully emulate it.
You need to find the fine balance between superfluity and play. This is where editing comes in. Some people edit while writing, others do it afterwards. Either way editing is very important. Take out all the fluff and try to make every sentence sing. Being precious about your writing is also a mistake. That sentence is not the One Ring; if someone suggests that it should go, it probably should (unless that someone is Sauron. In which case, run.)
Ultimately you need to get the writing done and down. That’s the first thing that needs to happen. Stephen King writes 2000 words a day (granted, the man is a maniac); every writer needs to have the same ethic — especially bloggers. So craft the title, then do some research, make some notes on the points that need to be included, flesh out those points and logically order them while editing and making the writing fresh and vital. Or free-write while consistently getting your point across and including your personality in the writing without adding too much waffle and fluff and then edit until it is concise but unique and interesting.
Just that. Happy screen gazing.
Postscript: Metawriting is probably the worst kind of writing ever. I’m writing about writing well and my concern is, while writing about writing well am I writing well? Derrida would be pleased. The bastard.
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