Monday, October 8, 2012

Thoughts on writing

Someone (T) asked me about writing… I can tell you what worked for me, but first, T, I didn’t ask if you’ve thought about writing a book about your life. I asked, “Have you thought about writing about your life?” The point of writing about yourself is to understand more about yourself, how you got to where you are, where you might be headed, to tell your story, and maybe, if others read your work, to change people’s consciousness. (If you write truly you’ll certainly change your own consciousness!) I’m well aware that the first part of your life was extraordinarily difficult. I was seeing writing as a means of discovery and ultimately, healing. If a book results, well, great.

The way to become a writer is to write – several hours a day, five days a week if possible. Maintaining a blog is a good way to get started. I write about people I meet, things I do, my past, whatever. I’m writing a lot less these days. FB posts lead to nowhere in terms of writing.
Most people need coaching or editorial help, especially early in the process of becoming a writer. For many people, it isn’t easy to hear that their writing is lacking in grammar or style or whatever. But there is no avoiding correction if one is to be a serious writer. 

Related to editorial help is a constant effort to improve one’s writing. I always revise and correct my work several times over. One curiosity I discovered about my writing is that fairly often, the last sentence of a paragraph actually should be the first sentence.
Intentions are of little value. Actions matter.
The problem of “writer’s block” should be ignored. If you can’t write, work on the table of contents or clean your desk or change the oil in your car or something productive. Waiting for inspiration while staring at a blank screen or sheet of paper is a waste of time.
Read other people’s work. I’ve learned a lot from skilled writers like David Sedaris, Elmore Leonard, Harry Stack Sullivan, and countless others.
I carry a pocket notebook almost everywhere I go. I write down things I see. things people say, my thoughts, quotes from things I read, whatever. I use less than 20% of what I make notes of/on. I’m still waiting to use these quotes: “Onward, toward our noble deaths” (title of book by Misuki) and “He despised all cant and pretentions, and he never called himself an artist” (from the forward to the Aperture book on Robert Capa).
This is a lot of work, but if you do it for several years, you’ll be a writer.
I wrote because I had something to say and there was some degree of I wrote because I couldn't not write. Thanks to my coaches and editors: Joe Bob Briggs, Jennifer Donovan, Linda Garner, and the editors at Lippincott and Elsevier Science.


miami lakes kia said...

You are providing good suggestions about writing the thoughts of life!
Kia Coral Springs

Penguin said...

Thank you, Charles. You inspired me to think, "Writing isn't writing. It's thinking and recording." -Kellie

cdevine24 said...

Hello my grandpa found your article on dong ha and he was on the tank that hit yours. i was wondering if there is a way to get your email so you can compare stories - coty