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HOOK: Let's get something straight: I hate writing, because it's the best thing ever.
INTRO: But as much as I love the process, we can't just publish our word vomit and call it good writing. Because that's stupid. I wish I could say it with any other word, but for our little chat today, you and I need to call it what it is. Our words, spoken or written, carry more gravity than we realize, and even when we write anonymously, they still carry our identity with them.
THESIS: So how can we improve our writing, and why should we care?
BODY: To begin I ask, why is writing considered to be one of the most popular creative methods, with one of the lowest professional turnovers because of the competition? It's because people don't pay other people who don't know how to write. Someone who only thinks they're worth a six-figure paycheck for their writing will be earning a curb and a cardboard box. You either have the skills, or you don't.
Simply put, creativity is in the senses of the author. I hesitate to say "eye of the beholder," because that's cliche, and limiting. We each have our own sense of the world, our own senses to rely on, to describe, and share our thoughts with the world.
For some, we rely on images, realistic or handcrafted. People photograph, paint, design, and form what's on their mind in an infinite number of combinations, including color, form, focus, contrast, etc. But it can lack certain expressions.
For others, music and sound are the means of sharing our message with the world. The notes, the timbre and pitch, the tones, the harmonies, and even the dissonance can create an experience in the soul that can't be misinterpreted. Music often connects with pure, human emotion. But again, this form of art can lack certain expression when it conveys its message.
For others, acting is the preferred method. To create living, breathing human beings that each have their own lives, histories, lovers, and trials can be one of the most exhausting means of creativity, because it uses every physical capacity we as the actor or actress have to work with, from song, dance, and diction to emotional range, conveyance, and focus. It is one of the only arts that directly influences the empathy of the viewer directly.
But, again, acting lacks in ways the other forms excel at! As exhausting and fast-paced as acting can be, what makes writing the HARDEST creative medium to work with?
That's just it. When you write, you're not working in paints or clay, or characters in the flesh. When you write, you work with ideas themselves.
So, how do you effectively share an idea? Sure, you can hop on Twitter or Facebook and slap down a status and send it out to the world, but if all you want to do in your writing is put an idea out there, it will likely never get picked up.
Or even worse, it could offend and dissuade your audience. You've gotta put more into it. You've only got one resource: Your reader. So honor them, and their investment in you.
You might argue that each of the creative mediums we've already shared convey ideas, in one way or another. What I'm saying is, writing is the only medium where you and another person have a one-on-one conversation, in their mind.
The point of any creative art is to convey an idea, even if that idea is chaos, blandness, or emptiness. A single dot on a page could be art. A character from a film could be immortalized by a smile. A song could be etched into your heart.
But a word? A phrase? A poem? A novel? A memoir? An opinion piece? The fact that you have invested in this article is a testament to the power of WORDS to convey ideas. They share emotion, context, depth, breadth, and vulnerability in the deepest, most ugly, and most beautiful sense of the word. Every word, and even the placement of a word in a sentence, changes the meaning.
There are nearly 171,500 words in English. It's not like you'll use every single one in a sentence, but even a sentence can change your life, if it's arranged well.
"Your dad just died."
"You're gonna be a daddy."
"How's my big boy?"
"Be a big boy and do the dishes."
THESIS: With that in mind, I have a few things I want to share that will help you improve your writing. I've spent a lot of time on introduction, but the brunt of my comments will be summarized in only one paragraph. And there's a reason for that.
Here's the principles: Write like you're drowning, and you have to get the message out before you go under. Reread, and rewrite, everything you write. Read other prominent writers, and study what they don't do well.
EVIDENCE: I can hear you asking: "Why are those principles so stark?" And I hear you! They're kinda downers in their own right!
Because that's how any professional writer that's worth their salt feels. J.K. Rowling might not have ever put forth her writing if she wasn't trying to provide for her family, and battle depression to boot. Abraham Lincoln often penned DOZENS of versions of his most famous speeches.
So, why shouldn't you? I'm not saying "be depressed" or "write a speech." But the principles behind good writing should be a struggle. If it flows from your mind to your page, chances are you're obeying the Twitter/Facebook rule of writing: Word vomit and publish. Any good writing needs real thought, because the ideas you convey are not going to connect just by introducing them to your reader.
Not only that, but writing doesn't have to be longwinded. It can be very short. There. I said it. And I imagine I still get my point across. Why should your principles be any different?
CLOSING: Let's answer some questions about those pesky principles before I end.
Why write like you're drowning? Because your reader is drowning. They've got a million and one things to do, and you might not be that high on their list. So, earn that spot. Demand their time with concise, clear, engaging writing.
Why reread/rewrite everything? Because when you do, you'll be reading as yourself. Do yourself a favor: Stop that. Learn to read your own writing as your intended audience will. Is your point getting across? If you as the author don't understand your own work as a reader, with NO way of knowing where you're coming from. You will fail them, your most precious asset, and they will reward you with the same thing you have offered them: Wasted time.
Why critique good writers? Excuse me. Why critique professional writers? Because doing so will show you not only what they don't do well, but how you as a writer can relate, and overcome those same challenges. It won't be a neon sign saying, "Oh! You suck at jargon and spelling, just like this author!" But the recognition of the problem is often the best way to begin, and it's up to you with how you deal with your own weaknesses in writing. No one will do it for you. No one can.
ZINGER: I want to do what any good story, any good article, and any good poem does: :eave a zinger. Zingers often act like the last taste the reader has in a meal. Was yours a sack lunch? A burger meal? A Thanksgiving dinner with fix-ins? Chances are, you'll need one more thing at the end of your meal to give you full satisfaction. And sure, satisfaction can accompany your entire piece, but only with much practice, patience, and work (and rework).
It's the same with your writing. If a reader has entertained you for the duration of your piece, this is one way you can reward them. And I may be wrong, but learning how to compose a zinger, learning how to write at all might earn you an agent, a publisher, a job, or even a spouse. Just something to think about. Heck, it's something to write about!
If you liked what you read, be a gem and leave a tip! :)