The Rite of Writing Right

Posted on August 1, 2012

People often ask me "who writes your stuff?" That's me- guilty. (I love when someone writes to me and says "I've decided that I would be a great addition to your writing staff."The answers: a) you and the four or five other people who send me a message like that every week or so. b) There are no openings- since I AM the entire staff. If I fire myself, I'll let everybody know.) The next question is usually "where do you get your ideas from?" The answer to that one is pretty simple- everything. Basically, you learn to keep your mind open at all times,because anything you see , hear, read, or experience might be the basis for something. This all came to mind when I saw an article from the Sunday New York Times about "How to Write" written by Colson Whitehead.He reduced the art of writing to a few simple rules, and a lot of them rang true with me- so, I thought I'd share them with those who might be interested. Rule one is -"show and tell". What he's saying here is-let people see your writing.Their reactions may help or even hurt you, but-you might find out some truth about your writing, and ,believe me- that's a way to be a better writer. Not everybody will love what you write, and they don't have to.It's just important that a writer be read. Rule two is- don't go searching for a subject- let the subject find you. That kind of goes with what I said about where I get my ideas- you never know what's going to hit you and be the catalyst for a blog, an article, a comedy bit, or even a really good excuse for not doing something.Once you hit on a subject, it often becomes a rushing torrent, as you build upon the ideas- something that doesn't necesarily happen if you force yourself to expound on a certain thing just to be writing something.( I know sometimes you have to do that- and might not have the luxury of time to wait for that subject of inspiration- but, it's much easier when you do hit that subject that "unleashes the hounds".) ...That leads us to rule three, which is somewhat related- write what you know!It helps when it's something you can relate to- even if you're writing about how you don't understand something; you can go into the "whys" of why you don't-because you're relating that personal experience, which you know well, of why you don't know. That reads like a bad Abbott and Costello routine, but, I think you get what I mean. I recall even Stephen King agreeing with rule number 4- never use three words when one will do.It's always pretty effective to be concise, and you have to understand that, though you may love writing reams of over-flowery verbiage- being direct and concise makes your writing more effective. I've fallen into the "more words than necessary" trap- but mostly when it's a case of "write a 600-word paragraph"- in which case, I not only condone adding more words, but recommend it. The virtual over-flow of excess entries from Mr. Webster's valued tome of ammunition quite miraculously will endeavor to make the sum of those multi-lettered phrases reach the needed and much coveted maximum. (see what I just did there? I could've just written-"Extra words will get you to your goal faster!") The rules continue- actually, the whole article is meant to be humourous, but,as I said it has some valid and useful advice.However, you do get the tongue-in-cheek nature of the article,in entries like rule number 8- all it says is "rule number 8 is a secret"! The best rule? The last one- rule number 11- there are no rules.Write the way YOU write. Enjoy doing it. Even if nobody else likes your stuff, if YOU like it- and it gives you satisfaction- you've accomplished something. Whitehead ends the article with the best advice- "just be yourself".

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