WHOA LADIES! Keep those tops ON!
You too, sir.
Since pushing the “publish” button on my first post about two years ago, more than 62,000 people have stopped in at some point — mostly while Google searching “monkey butts” or “Cheeto Clog” — and 5,250 of you decided to stay. I am very thankful for that and a little surprised, especially considering there are no Cheeto-clogged monkey butts anywhere on this blog. I’ve looked. And so has PETA.
Also over that same period, I’ve shared more than 50 weekly acorns of NWOW writing insights gathered through 15 years as a newspaper columnist tending the tree of literary wisdom — all of which I am currently squirreling away into an eBook that Publisher’s Digest has already predicted will be “…writing tips that are nuts.”
So as I continue the last few days of my vacation working on the final draft, I’d like to offer this excerpt which, while appearing fundamental, is often more difficult than it seems — and the first step I took toward reaching this 500th post.
Thanks to all of you who have joined me along the way. At some point, though, we should probably stop and ask someone for directions…
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Step one to becoming a writer: Write
That advice seems pretty straight forward. The kind of obvious straight forwardness that carries you with complete confidence toe-first into a brick. Like most advice we’re given, the wisdom behind it is simple; the problem comes in the execution.
And while there are countless books out there offering tips on everything from how to get inspired and avoid writer’s block to the kinds of foods that promote creative thinking (which, judging from what I read, you will be doing mostly while on the commode), all of those books essentially come down to one universal truth:
Nothing promotes and stimulates writing better than…
You guessed it:
But let’s suppose you don’t want to become an alcoholic? Does that mean you’re not truly committed to being a writer? Could it jeopardize your dream of becoming a novelist, columnist, short story writer or inner city tagger?
Let me answer those questions by answering the single most important question you’re probably asking yourself right now:
Has HE been drinking?
Of course not.
I have four children, remember?
Regardless, my point is that the other universal truth to writing is this:
The fastest way to jumpstart the writing process is to put your fingers to the keyboard and just start writing.
I purposely sat down to write this column without any preparation. I did this to 1) challenge myself, and 2) because I really had no idea what I was going to write anyway, so it seemed like a good plan. To that end, I started putting words on the screen.
Did I take a wrong turn or two?
But the beauty of writing is that — like the Kardashians — nothing is permanent, and you can easily fix imperfections by injecting or removing the things you don’t like.
And many times, what you thought was going to be a wrong turn or dead end leads to a doorway you hadn’t expected — or at least a window you can jump out of.
Especially if you walk in on Bruce Jenner getting a body wax.
OK, in an effort to move on quickly from that image, how about a show of hands from anyone who has ever found themselves staring at a blank screen with their fingers poised over the keyboard, even if they have applied my advice?
Seriously, I’m watching, so get them up.
I ask this because, in spite of my advice, there are still times when you need to jumpstart your jumpstart.
Something I’ve discovered from writing a daily blog is that the interaction with other writers on blogs and websites — whether replying to a comment or leaving one on another writer’s site — is a great way to grease the creative process.
… Great, just when I had gotten past that image of Bruce Jenner…
Anyway, starting your day with some social interaction at your computer not only gets you into writing position at the keyboard, but can get the creative process started by reading others’ work, getting inspired by it, and formulating responses or comments in a creative frame of mind.
Warning: Set a time limit!
As I can attest, it’s easy to lose track of time, or become so caught up in commenting and replying that your momentum is carried in the wrong direction. I usually give myself until I finish my first cup of coffee.
Which, by the way, I have switched from the giant 128-ounce Big Gulp size to a standard mug. Not only because I was using it as an excuse to blog until noon, but also because I discovered my bladder only holds 120 ounces.
Bottom line, once you’ve established a writing routine, solidify it by putting words on the page — whether for your actual writing project or during a social network warm-up — each time you sit down at the keyboard. Before you know it, your writing will be waiting for you in your mental queue at the same time each day.
Assuming you can get the image of Bruce Jenner out of your mind.
Again, my apologies for that.