The deeper you get with your writing, the more you realise how important it is to define exactly what it is that you are doing.
The need to be precise about what you write about, why you are writing on a particular topic, and how your style, your words, and your ideas on the topic speak to your readers.
Writing isn’t for everybody. It’s hard — if you want to make anything good out of it.
All this, requires a disciplined mind.
The good news is that so long as you are practising writing, experimenting, trying this and that, then you are moving forwards. Getting better becomes an obvious sign post that is visible.
I believe whole heartedly in the idea that writing must also be “play”. If you’re not enjoying it, then you’re not really playing.
When you write, it has to be a conscious effort all of the time. That’s a big part of why it’s hard. You have to be switched on, and fired up.
Imagine all the connections, the gear changes, the memories, sensations, and a lot more that is ‘lit-up’, when you write.
The taco meter on your brain is at full revs. It’s a Harley-Davidson Electra Glide at full throttle. You need all valves open, both pistons pumping at full throttle, and a full tank to make the journey.
When you sit down and write, say, 1000 words. You focus on one idea about what makes good writing, like always reiterating, and deepening your premise. Then finish. Then read the work. You’ll then see that you’ve achieved something new in your writing. You kept your focus.
If you trust yourself with one single idea that belongs to all the things that make good writing, forget the others, you’ll notice how that one thing can make a piece of your work shine.
The premise is your ‘whole point’. The reason for the piece of writing. Such as “How to bake a cake”. You’d always remind the reader that although to them, baking looks like cooking in general, what you’re writing is about the specific idea of baking a cake. It’s a component of general cooking. If you can bake a cake, you’ll find baking bread a bit easier the next time you want soda bread. You teach a person about the ingredients, the oven temperatures, and the measurements specific to baking a cake.
I like to make scones. Recently, I tried three times to have a success at making scones that stood up. You know, so they look like scones. I couldn’t do it, and I don’t know why. Mine were pancake scones, baps, cow pat more than stand-up.
The third attempt, it worked. But the scones tasted like something from the garbage can. I have no idea why. But, I did get one thing right. I made the little soda sods stand up and look like proud scones. Next, I’ll work on tasty scones.
Writing can be similar. I’ve written things that look good, begin well, but then leave a foul taste. I couldn’t figure it out.
It wasn’t the topic, it wasn’t the ‘voice’, it was something that I couldn’t put my finger on. It made me realise something great. In writing, there are so many components to master, it’ll take a lifetime. And that means it’s like reaching for the stars. That’s a life worth living.
The things we can’t define in writing, those components that make writing good to great, are invisible to our conscious thoughts. But as we write, our inner minds can see them, sense them, and work on them like the heat of an oven that gentle turns dough into bread.
You should allow your mind enough space and time to work alone on the things that seem like sticky dough. As writers, we should focus on the temperature settings.
As Stephen King says, “if an idea is difficult, I’ll just let the boys in basement play with it for a while.”, normally, the next day ideas start to clarify.
Trust the unconscious mind to do its bit. It’s powerful.
Sometimes you can immediately say what’s wrong. It could be too long winded, or it could be too much present perfect which can lead to sentences dragging on, and ending up in a passive voice. Then sometimes, you just don’t know why it all went wrong. Not to worry.
That’s the nature of the game, and it’s also why people find writing hard. You can’t approach it with an attitude of, “I know grammar, so I’m good at writing”. Really? There are a lot of people out there who believe that because they were good at grammar at school, when they were 15 years old, it means they can write a great novel.
Writing anything, an article, a book, a short story, is about expression. We are always wrangling with how to express ourselves best. It’s a long journey. It’s a game that we can play, and like all games, we get better at it when we enjoy it.
Knowing how to write is bound up in all our life skills. A good insight into human behaviour, a smattering of the latest psychology, some history, politics, business knowledge, how to get a good night’s sleep, where to live if you want happiness and peace, the list is endless. All these things make up our lives, and they are what we want to express in our writing.
If your grammar is weak, it isn’t a reason to think you can’t be a great writer. Writing improves your grammar. It’s just a tool.
If you find other people, life itself, socialising, and your interest in the world is minimal, then you’ll have problems writing convincingly about most things.
All the components of writing make up a framework that we use to finish a piece of work. It could be a novel about a trip across America on a Harley-Davidson, or it could be an article about your cat. If you want it to turn out so that it’s an enjoyable read, so the reader feels it’s time well spent, then instead of clenching your teeth while trying to remember all the aspects of what makes good writing, focus on the weakest link in your armoury, and work it while you write.
If you look at all the components of cooking up a good article, the list will turn into a blur. Voice, style, sub topic, proposition, approach with grammar — the infamous advice to prune it down to a bestseller sentence of no adverbs, no adjectives, no emotional expression, just subject+verb+noun, will lead to a brain that is on fire with frustration.
Just pick out a point, and write your heart out, have fun while you do it. It’s like riding a bicycle, you will fall off, but less and less.
One day you’ll see that your writing has improved immensely, and you’ll be proud of the work. And it’s baffling how it happened.
It’ll make you feel like you’re ready to straddle the big Harley and confidently ride into starry night of thought that lays ahead.
Writing consciously, with your mind on full throttle. It’s the best scenario, and it’s fun. This way, your work will stand up, and you’ll be proud when you hit ‘publish’.