Writing can be so difficult sometimes. I speak for myself at least. Sometimes I stare at the screen for too long before deciding what to write. Sometimes I desperately text multiple friends to ask for ideas. Sometimes I fail to write entirely. Sometimes, I write about not writing so that I can have something to write about. Huh! See what I did there 😀 Point is, I’ve been struggling to write as frequently as I used to some years back. So here’s me attempting to DO SOMETHING.
My dear friend Umm Usaamah (thank you Najma!) gave me a book called, ‘If You Can Talk, You Can Write‘ By Joel Saltzman. The book was so refreshing because the author used a lot of humour. He gives these awesome tips on how to write, at any cost. I decided to share the tips from his book and hopefully, we can stop complaining about not writing and actually do it?!
1. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE YOURSELF: First of all, don’t say you know nothing interesting. Stop rejecting your thoughts and start writing them down. You might think, ‘Ah, I’m such a boring person with zero social life, what could I possibly write about that would be interesting?’ But trust me, there are people out there wondering how you spend your time and stay sane while alone. Or you could be a fisherman and you think, ‘Who wants to know about fishing and a fisherman’s life?’ But there is always someone who would be interested. 99% of all novels start with something autobiographical; people telling their own stories but changing names. So remember this, ‘if it interests me, it will interest others too!’ If you don’t work on your idea of a fisherman’s life, someone else will!
2. PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION: Here is the absolute truth, perfectionism leads to paralysis which eventually leads to procrastination. When you refuse to accept anything less than perfection, you’ve reduced your failure rate to zero percent. The problem is, you’ve done the same to your success rate. Tell yourself, ‘I don’t care if it makes any sense or not. Whatever is in my head, I’m going to write it down.’ Remember, it doesn’t have to be great at this instance. Your aim is to have something down!
3. WRITE LESS, SAY IT BETTER: Make it as simple as possible. You don’t have to use big words or complicated, impressive words to be a good writer. You need to ‘talk on paper’, like you would to a friend. The more you ‘talk’ on paper without stopping to judge or criticize yourself, the better chances you have of stumbling into gold. It is like when you’re trying to explain something during a conversation, you’re trying to find the right way of saying it. At first you may beat about the bush, say a lot of ‘urmmms’, but eventually, you get to your point. ‘Blah, blah, blah, blah…GOLD!’ Same with writing! ‘If the final product looks nice and easy, chances are, it took a lot of tinkering.’
4. MAKE ‘HAVING FUN’ BE YOUR MANTRA: Tell yourself, ‘I’m going to have some fun here. I’m going to play around and discover some really neat stuff.’ Writing is like a voyage of discovery. Make it an adventure. Pick a word, any word, see what you can write about it. See where it takes you. Remember to have fun!
5. WRITING IS REWRITING: A rotten first attempt is a great way to start. Even the best writers never get it right the first time. Take a break after writing then come back to re-check what you wrote. The longer you stay away, the more objectivity you will gain. Never be deceived by someone else’s polished draft. They too had to do some serious rewriting. A friend of mine told me of a brilliant writer who writes these MASTERPIECES, but the writer usually sits from 6 a.m. in the morning till 1 p.m. doing that one piece of around 600 words. This kind of dedication is what we all need! James A Michener said, “I have never thought of myself as a good writer. Anyone who wants reassurance of that should read one of my first drafts. But I’m one of the great rewriters.”
John Steinbeck said, ‘Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is done. Rewrite in the process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on.’
6. NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN: Whatever idea you think of, high chances are, someone else already thought about it too. There is nothing new under the sun yet no one can tell a story YOUR way. Stop abandoning your writing at the first sign of trouble. Leave your problem aside for a while and the answer may just come to you. Remember, your story matters!
7. DO IT YOUR WAY: Find your voice. Write your story. Talk about what matters to you. Every author breathes a different life into the same idea. This is because, each one of us will tell it in our own unique way! What you can do-better than anyone-is write it your way, no matter what they say.
8. WRITERS BLOCK: Jerry Jenkins said that the writers’ block is brought about by four things: Fear, Procrastination, Perfectionism and Distractions. The way to deal with this is to WRITE in spite of the fear. Taking necessary action to write even you feel like it is the last thing you want to do. ‘The way to resume is to resume. It is the only way. To resume.’
9. CRITICISM: Criticism isn’t the hard part, it is how you react to it. Do not take it personally. Opinions will vary, whether it is glowing praise or complete damnation. Learn to shrug off either extreme because praise will stop you from growing , scorn will stop you from even trying. Be critical of what you write, not the person who wrote it. Remember, criticism is not an attack on YOU! Take it as a learning opportunity.
10. SECRET INGREDIENT: When you stick with writing long enough, the chaos turns into order. All you need is the patience to keep trying until you get it right. It is okay if you don’t know what you’re trying to say at first. It is the only way you’ll get to say, ‘Aha! Now I know what I’ve been trying to say all this time!’
A lot of discipline is needed too. Discipline is learning how to write when you don’t feel like writing.
11. PERSISTENCE: Katherine Anne Porter said, ‘Stick to it in spite of hell and other people. Patience and endurance.’ Sometimes you will lack inspiration but that doesn’t mean you just sit and wait for it to come like revelation. ‘You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.’ John Cage said, ‘I don’t try to be inspired, I just try to work very regularly.’ Point is, you have to force yourself to write! Make the time for it! The more you write, the more time you spend at it, the better chances for success.
12. JUST WRITE! Write about what you usually talk about. The ordinary conversations can really be extra-ordinary. Stupid ideas can actually turn out great! So write! Write about what you don’t know. Make interesting lists like ‘True things I could never make public’ then pick one such thing and actually dare to write about it. Write about what matters to you. Write about things you’ve researched. Just make sure you do write, at whatever cost!
Also, read! Because by reading others, we learn to write for ourselves.
‘Good writing is not about magical aptitude or God-given gifts; it’s about taking the talent you do have -great, average or less than average and working hard to make the most of it.’
Well, I did end up writing didn’t I? 😉
I highly recommend this book by Joel Saltzman, ‘If you can talk, you can write.’ The above is just a summary from what I learnt from the 190 pages. You definitely will learn more from the actual book. It is very helpful for all kind of writers.
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