Though my blog has only been up for a short time, writing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I started stuttering pretty severely, so I relied on pencil and paper to be heard. This blossomed into a love for creative writing and fiction, and later on flash fiction and short stories. Though the speech impediment will be with me forever, I was taught ways to overcome the stutter so my voice can be heard – the main way is still through writing.
Writing has taught me more than I will ever be able to communicate, but I have compiled a list of six that you might use to improve your own work.
1. Screen the Haters
This is not necessarily about criticism. Criticism is truly a lovely thing if it is given positively and constructively. What I am talking about is that group of readers who seem to stalk your progress – they read EVERYTHING – and spew hate about each little letter. I call them anti-groupies. They’re the ones you would rather not have in your tour bus, but they seem to show up anyway. (Check the trunk!!)
Whether they are linked to you somehow in real-life or across the net, we all have to deal with them someday. And the way in which we deal with them determines how the parasite will multiply. If you spew fire on this already howling inferno, it is no surprise that you’ll see those fantasy worlds you so skillfully created reduced to ashes and dangling modifiers. They will bite back, chewing holes in the mystical motivation ferry on which you are a frequent passenger. Rather, you should ignore them or serve them up a savory plate of friendliness. It is a lot like how a killer might stop stabbing when they realize the victim is already dead. The fight is half the fun, so don’t give it to them.
Writing is like memorized math formulas, basketball, fishing, rock climbing – basically anything that requires at least a modicum of skill – in that it must be practiced or you will risk losing it altogether. I strive to write at least 300 words per day. Now, I know this isn’t much and most of the time I hit 1,000 pretty quick, but it’s just enough to keep the dust and cobwebs away. Additionally, setting a small goal like 300 is realistic enough regardless of how busy a day you might have; it’s small enough to not be deterring. The crux of it is to aim to write every day, whether it’s a simple paragraph in a sleep journal or a full-blown blog article. You’ll thank yourself for it later.
3. Go Crazy
If there’s one thing the U.S. presidency has taught me, it’s that people love drama – many don’t even realize it. Our eyes automatically spring to the juiciest article. And fiction writing is very similar; the biggest difference is that what we write doesn’t necessarily have to be based on fact: we can run wild.
If you’ve scrolled Everybody Dies At the Masquerade, you might have come across my flash fics Teacher and Best Friend. These are two I wrote specifically to ruffle some feathers, and they have – there is a reason why they are my two least liked posts. And that is okay. Some nights I get a crazy streak and write something insane enough that my family will want to offer me a graced Bible to stymie this oh, so sinful mind of mine.
For many of us, writing offensive material works in that it gets people talking. Before long, you will have a group a readers standing by just to read your latest tongue-in-cheek article about a child molester who relates his work to butterfly catching (OH wait, I already did). #ShamlessPlug
It is one thing to write offensive material, but another to just outright bash a group of individuals. This is not, and will never be, okay. The most important thing is to stop when you realize you’ve gone too far.
4. Take Breaks
There will come a time when the creativity well will dry up, and any words thereafter just do not come out or you will be dealing with some shitty work. What I have learned is to take breaks every hour and a half – initially it was once an hour, but personally I do not mind sitting in front of the computer for an extra thirty minutes – this way I can get up and stretch my legs, get some blood flowing, and maybe grab something to eat or drink. Many times I find myself deep in a writing phase in which I completely lose track of time, which is why I set a timer on my phone. Not only does this keep me alert in time to take a break, but it allows me to pace myself. I have experienced significantly less blocks with this method, which results in better, fluid writing.
This goes along with practice. We don’t expect the Saturday Night Live cast to simply practice their satirical skits without watching videos of the person of which they plan to impersonate. Granted, by reading other authors’ work, we are absolutely not seeking to imitate the piece, but it keeps us informed. We might come to enjoy a particular writer’s style, so we try to emulate it along with our own; similarly, we might be inspired by his or her use of voice. Without a doubt, reading will make us better writers in that we analyze the work and perfect our own, but it also provides some good entertainment! Read an extra book a week, month, or year depending on your schedule, and watch your writing soar.
6. Be Yourself
There is no better writer than one who is not afraid to pour their raw self onto a page. Ultimately, we write for ourselves, before the reader. And if we do not feel a part of what we write, if what we write deceives us, we end up with shoddy work and a mouthful of antidepressants. Each of us has a voice and want it to be heard, or we would not be writing in the first place. So, the first step is simply picking up the pencil or typing that first letter; the rest will come naturally, like hot blood through a tube.