The Writing Process
I spend my time listening to people. If you listen to people, they will tell you what makes them mad. They will tell you how the cope and what their fears are, if you give them space to talk. I listen to what they say and how they say it. The breaks in their sentences and the pauses in their breath tell everything. You can learn a lot from a person if you stop and observe. I observe their reactions. If they repeat certain phrases or say certain things, I write that down. I notice what people wear; some people throw on things while others take their time.
When I first started writing, people told me, “if you want to get better at writing write.” I took their advice. I wrote. I wrote a lot. After I made writing a daily practice, I sent my work to editors. Hoping to find that I had some type of talent, I didn’t. Their critiques devastated me. My stories were missing the elements of craft. At first, I was upset about the critiques. But then I realized that I could get better. My first teaching lesson was to learn craft: learn how to write.
I bought books on writing technique, grammar, and prose. I read books from some of the best writers: copying paragraphs in chapters I found interesting, re-writing their work in my own words, circling verbs/adjectives and highlighting sentences that stood out to me. Serious writers will tell you every word matter. You would be surprise to find one word can throw off your message. This time when I read, I could feel the rhythm that writers talked about. If you want to become a better writer study words and their meanings. Buy a Thesaurus.
Although I studied to perfect my craft, I didn’t make much progress. The writing process is grueling. And the editing process is redundant. I didn’t see the improvements from the writing working shops I attended. Writers block hit me hard. My mind wasn’t blank my mind was clustered. I couldn’t get out what I wanted. I wrote then I deleted. This went on for several weeks. You know, it is easy to be discouraged. Writing is hard. Writing takes guts. I became so frustrated with my work, my writings read like rants.
When I learned writing technique, writers block became my best friend. I think writer’s block happens when you know what good writing is. When you understand what good writing is, mediocrity will not do. Your mind is blank not because you have nothing to write, but because you want to create something valuable. Sure, anyone can write and put it on paper, but not many of us can write riveting work. Writing like that takes more than talent it takes work and practice.
To Write is to Listen
When I first began writing, I wrote without knowing the story. I knew how to formulate sentences but I didn’t know how to make my words come alive. How could I make my words stop a heartbeat like Edgar Allen Poe? How could I tell history with fiction like Elena Ferrante? The answers I couldn’t find at the time, but I did realize this: writing more doesn’t make you a better writer. If you tell an athlete, “running will make them run faster” than you are telling a partial truth. To run faster you have to work on your mechanics.
To be a better writer you have to work on your craft. Everything requires technique. It has been a year and half since I have dedicated myself to pen-and-paper and I have learned writing requires you to listen.
I read my work aloud to find mistakes. My writer friends offer me suggestions to clean and polish my writing. When I speak to people who I find interesting, I ask them about their life and experiences. I listen to podcast, TV shows etc. I am grateful to find out what it takes to achieve my dreams as a writer.
What does your dream require?