Hey glad you came back!
Always thankful when readers return.
After all, it’s a big ask on my part to make you wait seven days each time before I reveal the complete list of 20 things about writing I learned. After posting my 200th blog!
The good news is we’re already halfway done. And by the time you finish this post, we’ll be three-quarter ways complete!
[Part 1 debunked some writing myths to build good writing habits. Part 2 covered useful techniques for writing]
All caught up? That was fast.
Then you’re all set to press on with me today with #11 to #15. Hopefully, they’ll offer you innovative ideas to create your next magnum opus!
#11 Research when ‘stuck’
I’ve been warned by my writing coach not to say this, but I can’t resist!
What am I talking about? Writer’s block.
Shhhh…not so loud. You see, my coach doesn’t believe in it, and frowns on anyone who does. You can read what she says here.
Of course, I’m not about to contradict her. Not unless I plan on being ex-communicated from her writing fraternity!
But even so, I’ll be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that many have heard of writer’s block. And many would regularly swear by it!
Yet the truth is that when it happens, you don’t have to stay stuck.
Or I wouldn’t have made it past 200 posts with my near-punishing regime of posting non-stop thrice a week since January 2020!
My secret? In a word, research.
Nothing like treasure-hunting online or in excellent tomes like Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, the Bible, the encyclopedias, and even the Thesaurus and Dictionary!
Or simply open an online search engine, and let those little algorithm elves be your very own Indiana Jones!
All you need is a keyword to get you started.
With the smorgasbord of materials available online these days, there’s just no way you will not find something to trigger ideas for writing.
Go ahead. There’s really no excuse.
#12 Re-read and repurpose
Besides the practical resources mentioned above, I’ve also discovered that once I’d amassed over 100 blog posts, I was suddenly in an enviable position.
Now, I have a treasure trove of ideas from my very own backyard!
I could dig through old stuff like a diligent farmer tills the soil. I could rip apart what I once wrote, and do some serious repurposing to speak to a new situation or a new set of readers.
No doubt history’s wisest man King Solomon once declared that there’s nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes Chapter 1 Verse 9). But that doesn’t mean you can’t give something old new life tomorrow if the stars align just so, right?
For example, this online guest post I offered a parenting website last year for Father’s Day, was formerly a print-only parent magazine article I wrote several years before. Still relevant, it just needed slight edits and presto-chango, it was ready for a new set of parent readers!
Oh, and another side benefit of re-reading my old writings? The chance to stroll down memory lane, like opening an old family photo album. To see with fresh eyes what I once put together.
Every now and then I’ve even caught myself by surprise, going: “I wrote THAT?!”
#13 Study different writers & writings
As I pursue writing, one of my favourite things is to try and read as widely and as deeply as I can.
Wide, to expose myself to the different content, styles and perspectives our wonderful world has to offer.
Deep, to dissect how good writers write. How they parlay a phrase, string a sentence, piece together paragraphs, stitch up a scene. All with great mastery and flourish! How they take us into their world by the way they express each point, each argument, each opinion. And to do so in ways clear, coherent, and compelling.
Better still if they sound so conversational I almost believe they were sitting beside me talking!
Admittedly, great writing can be found in the pages of established publications like The New York Times or The Guardian, as well as page-turners composed by famous names ranging from Shakespeare to Seuss.
However, sometimes a hidden gem of a small indie writer may pop up and dazzle you. From the likes of food writer Rombauer in the 1930s to self-publishing novelist Ross in the last decade, these trailblazers show us that good writing and good writers can always be found if we bother to look.
And when we dare to give them, and us, a chance!
So look. Study. Learn.
#14. Movement. Movies. Music — My Three Muses
Every now and then, I’ve found that taking a walk helps clear my head and lend clarity to my thoughts.
Except when my feet hurts from last night’s home Disco Funk aerobics workout!
Then to other pleasurable distractions I go, movies and music being two of the best.
Better still if I can combine all three: Movement. Movies. Music!.
According to a New York Times article published last Saturday, many top successful executives (including Jeff Bezos of Amazon) schedule mandatory breaks in their daily routines. They know that “sustained mental attention without breaks is depleting, leading to inferior performance and decision-making.”
Even if you set aside the fact that these guys probably delegate most of the time-consuming work to their subordinates, this idea of taking intentional breaks still makes a whole lot of sense.
Sometimes all we need to inspire our writing is to step away from the desktop, laptop or tabletop, and just go for a spin. These days with Covid that might not be quite so easy to do, depending on where you are. But whatever it is, stepping away will more often than not allow us to return to our material with fresh eyes and new revelations.
I’ve found that to be very true. If stuck, I will leave my desk and go for a walk, a swim, take a nap, put on some music, or re-watch an old favorite film.
Works nearly every time.
#15. Insights can come when I least expect it!
There’s an old saying that good things come to those who wait. And they also come in small packages!
In fact, that’s actually how I write too. Slow and small.
Slow, because I usually ponder and consider, not always clear what I am trying to get at. Sometimes, it could take me days to unravel the tendrils of thoughts that threaten to engulf my sanity!
Small, because big things are hard to unpack in a post of 750 to 1,000 words. And even when I wrote 100,000 words last year (with my memoir’s vomit-y first draft), it was still small in scope and (relatively) easy to manage.
For I rarely know how a piece I began will look like when I’m finished with it. Guess for me, that’s part of the mystery and charm of writing.
And sometimes, it’s like a kind of therapy too. Once completed, I can look back and see how far I’ve come, and how much I’ve gained. That’s when I can heave a sigh of immeasurable relief, and declare proudly: “DONE!”
As a writer, there’s really no greater reward in the world than that!
And speaking of rewards…