Finally. Here it is.
I started this ‘mini-series’ four weeks ago and I’m now ready to bring it to a close.
If you’ve been patiently following (thanks lots!), you’ll know this series aims to list 20 things I’ve learned about writing and blogging since chocking up my 200th blog post last month.
For the “Busy Bee”…
But if you’re pressed for time and just want a snapshot, reproduced below for your convenience are the first 15 things I’ve learned, including their classifications:
#1 There’s no such thing as a perfect first draft
#2 Rewrites never end
#3 Commit to it like I would any job
#4 To write well, discipline not inspiration, is the clincher
#5 Write what I know, but every now and then, try something else too
#6 Know what I’m writing about
#7 Know who I’m writing for
#8 K.I.S.S. or Keep It Short and Sweet
#9 Write using more “active voice” than “passive”
#10 Build, Build Build! Up and over, up and over, up and over
#11 Research when “stuck”
#12 Re-read and repurpose
#13 Study different writers and writings
#14 Movements. Movies. Music. — My Three Muses
#15 Insights can come when I least expect it
When displayed this way, it sure looks like a long grocery list doesn’t it? I think breaking it up into four blog posts was definitely better than vomiting everything at one go!
Speaking of which, let me keep you in suspense no longer. Here are the final five I’ve learned, #16 to #20. I’m calling these my raison d’être for writing or, more affectionately, my Writing Thrills!
Enjoy, and hope you find something useful here.
#16 Writing is an adventure
One of my all-time favorite speakers on TED Talk is Sarah Kay, a spoken-word performance poet and teacher.
In her debut on TED ten years ago, she enthralled a thousand-strong crowd, passionately proselytizing the power of spoken-word poetry with what I would call a polished and persuasive panache of a performance.
Her 18 minutes speech garnered not one but two standing ovations!
Sarah spoke of how the process of writing poems is often about figuring things out. Many times she has no idea what something is about until she writes them down. And often, she’s still figuring things out as she plods through her poetry, only reaching some transcendent revelation when she finishes it.
And even if there were no revelations, Sarah consoles herself that at the very least, she got herself a new poem.
Talk about going on an adventure without quite knowing what awaits you at the end!
It’s how I feel too when I write.
I don’t always know when I start a writing project what it means or how it will end. Just take this section for instance. I started by calling it “Writing is Therapy”, yet halfway through I realized I was actually talking about writing as an adventure.
And it is. After all, the promise of discovering the unknown has spurred mankind for centuries.
And that’s what writing a blog post does for me — it spurs me like a thrilling adventure, the way poetry spurred Sarah.
#17 Writing makes me notice the little things
More than 200 blog posts later, I learned one thing.
Attention to the moving details of life is absolutely essential if I’m to find inspiration for writing.
Even more important is the ability to jot them down quickly and methodically. Because these transient details of life often shift and disappear as quickly as they appear, like dreams that vanish with the rising sun.
They are also often mundane and ignored.
An oft-remark someone made over dinner last evening. A song that pops up unexpectedly on Spotify, triggering a memory from childhood. The sight of an old woman whipping out a camera from nowhere and snapping a picture of an ordinary morning at an empty bus stop.
When these fleeting and seemingly innocuous moments occur and stir something in me I can’t as yet explain, I’ll quickly pull out my phone and type a note to myself. Or dig out a pen and post-it if I happen to have them.
To most people, this seems odd, trivial, and unnecessary. Yet for a writer, a keen observation of little things in life could become fodder for a novel, a memoir, a poem, or a blog! But only if we are quick to take note, even if we don’t know what it means at the time.
This brings me to the next learning point in my unfinished blog journey.
#18 Ideas that “fit nowhere” today, could “fit everywhere” tomorrow!
You sit there and suddenly a flood of ideas come and you’re just taking them down as fast as you can type or write.
What’s probably closer to the truth is what I once blogged about — blank stares at blank pages! A writer, helplessly willing for inspiration to descend like a turtledove from above, but instead getting only cricket sounds outside his window.
Or worse. Mucking around with an idea on the cusp of genius, yet never quite appearing in full glory.
Ever felt that way? No? Well, good for you. I get these moments all the time!
So what do I do?
I return to the treasure trove of notes I spoke of just now. It’s like a basket of assorted nuts right beside you. The pistachio may do nothing for you today but, give it a day or two, and who knows? I might discover something that will unlock the mysteries of the universe.
(Okay okay. But you do know writers are allowed to exaggerate now and then right?)
Like this mini-series for instance. It happened all because I stumbled across four words in my “basket” that read “What I Learnt From…?”
And the rest as they say, is (now) history!
#19 A picture really can speak a thousand words!
Since adding pictures to my blog, I’ve learned that they help liven up the look and feel of my posts.
They also help me clarify what I’m trying to convey. For if a picture can speak a thousand words, imagine what the right picture could do!
Plus, half the fun is in searching for the right picture to capture the mood and theme of a post.
To keep to the spirit of this learning point, I’ll keep my words here few and let the pictures do the talking!
Which brings me to the final learning point in this my writing and blogging journey.
#20 Writing has become my muse!
I once saw a T-shirt that said: “Choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life!”
That does sound a tad overly idealistic, doesn’t it? Let’s face it — a job is still a job at the end of the day.
But the point is nonetheless clear. Putting aside the occasional and inevitable “off” days, we will generally enjoy whatever we do if it’s something we love and relish.
For me, writing and blogging checks all the right boxes.
It allows me to:
/ freely create and express my thoughts without reservation.
/ control what I share.
/ edit on the go, and (in the case of my blog) even after I’ve published my post.
/ enjoy a sense of accomplishment when I successfully post up something. Bonus if fellow netizens read and like my posts.
But ultimately, writing is its own reward.
And after over 200 blog posts, I have learned that writing and, in particular blogging, has truly been my muse all along. In fact, it’s what inspired a poem I recently posted. The first few lines go:
That’s what it comes down to at the end of the day
It’s my constant my muse my solace my stay.
People come into my life but they usually disappear.
Writing’s my only constant companion
My cold tall jug of beer!
(PS For the record, I’m actually a teetotaller!)
Okay, that’s a wrap. Thanks for staying with me these past four weeks. Hope you found these posts meaningful and maybe even learned something you can put to good use right away!
Meantime, here’s to another two years, 200 posts and lots more insights!