Welcome to this week’s edition of Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, when I take the writing insights gained from 16 years as a columnist and, much like the first remnants of fruitcake to arrive this holiday season, offer slices to people despite their objections and threats of physical harm.
It’s a feature Writers Digest has called, “…Tips every writer should know if they want to be successful. But not necessarily as a writer…”
And what Oprah’s Book Club recently heralded as “…An important reminder as to why we have a book club…”
But enough accolades!
I’m going to open this week’s NWOW with a simple truth:
Step one to being 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.