Sunday, March 25, 2012

Guest Post: Writing is universal.

Writing is universal. If you are taught to write, you can write, and it's as simple as that. Everyone can be a writer as long as they've been taught to write in their respective language. And that's an important thing to remember if you've ever considered the possibility of being a writer, yourself. Think of it this way: have you ever had to tell a story to someone? I don't care what the story is. It can be about that one sleepover you had at so-and-so's house, or that wacko that almost ran you over with their car, or that teacher that you just CAN'T STAND. Have you ever had to tell that story to someone else? I'm betting the answer is yes, at some point, you've told some type of story.

One big gripe by people whom want to write but choose not to (and there are lots of excuses for not writing) is that they don't know where to start. If you've ever had an interest in writing ANYTHING - be it a blog, a poem, a short story, or a novel - I'm here to give you some super general tips to get started. Note that I said general, and I mean general; I won't get into too much depth, again, I don't want to bore the pants off you. If you want more though, drop by my YouTube page, where I host informal little video-lectures about creative writing. Anyway, onward!

Just Write

I cannot emphasize this enough. Just write. Do it. If you can write a comment on this blog post, you already have EVERYTHING that you need to start writing, and if you have ever said to yourself "I am bored and have nothing to do," you have all the reason in the world. The best thing for someone who wants to get started but doesn't know where to begin is a daily journal or blog about your day. Just yammer about what happened. You're not trying to impress anybody. You're just trying to tell things about your day, and make it sound interesting.

The key to writing is practice, and as cliché as it might sound, it works. The more you write, the better you get. The more you say, "and then I did this," the more it will annoy you that you're repeating the same phrase/word/sentence repetitively, and the more you'll (ideally) seek that lexicon of yours - chock full of vocabulary words you thought you'd never find a use for - to express yourself. Daily writing is like exercise for your brain. Spill some thoughts out, and try to write them as if you were trying to tell the story of your day to a friend. Do this for awhile, make it a habit, and you'll start finding that you write faster and more creatively as time goes on. Lord forbid, but it might actually be fun.

Assume whatever you write will be awful

One of the biggest pitfalls of new writers is their fears of not being good. And that's OKAY. It's okay to be worried about being good. But think of any book you've ever read, or any poet you admire. I can guarantee that they did not barf up those magical words onto the page on the first try. Writing doesn't work like that. In fact, good writing is found in the revision stage. You dribble out words like an incoherent drunk; then you come back, read that insane crap, and say, "What the hell was I thinking?" and fix it.

Are you worried that you don't know enough about grammar? Terrified about not having a big enough vocabulary? Frightened that you won't be able to get stuff "just right?" Don't be. The sooner you stop worrying about how bad you are at writing, the sooner you'll realize how good you are at writing. The best writers know that whatever they write will be total crap on the first time through. As for grammar, there are some things you do need to learn. But you'll never learn if you never write. So get started!

Start Simple

Now the big question: what should you write? The key here is to start small. Trying to divine a huge master plan straight from the ether is not something easily done... And at the end of the day, you can take pretty much any story or piece of writing apart, and be able to find one part where everyone can point at and agree "that's why it was written." You'll want something that you're passionate about; something that really makes you smile and think; this is usually why writing a daily journal works out well for beginners. Another option could be retelling your dreams, which offer up a goldmine of possible stories. Sccribbling down your dreams in the morning just after you wake up will not only give you an opportunity to write every day, but will also increase your retention of dreams, and give you a nifty insight into your subconscious whenever you go back to read it.

Challenge Yourself

Let's face it: writing is a pretty basic skill, at the end of the day. It's not always terribly exciting, and if you're just getting started, it can be very tedious and time consuming. But after you feel like you've mastered the basics of writing decent stories, and are able to tell stories fairly fast, start to challenge yourself and your own writing. Attempt to retell a story from a completely different perpective. If you went bowling with a friend, try and see things through your friends eyes. Or better yet, tell it through third person perspective, as if a magical person floating overhead was retelling the story as they saw it.

Other ways you could challenge yourself are by changing the names of people and places. Try retelling stories that have already been written. Or if you want to take the final step in creative writing, create a story from scratch, with your own characters, setting, and action. It may seem daunting. But as you continue writing, you'll begin to see that telling a story is as easy as retelling the story to anyone.

Share your writing

There is one truth you should never forget about writing: writing is meant to be read. That being said, learn to start sharing your writing. If you think you wrote something particularly nice, show it to a friend, and ask them what they think. Blogs are especially handy, since they are generally meant to be public. If you begin with a blog, then you've already got the sharing business out of the way, and there shouldn't be any nervousness. If you want to be private, of course, nobody is going to judge you! Just make sure that you read your own writing, so you can see for yourself which stories are better and worse, and why they weren't as interesting or exciting as others.

There are limitless ways that you can encourage yourself to write. My personal favourite is the website If you sign up, you're given a free and private space to write, which not only saves whatever you write, it also automatically analyzes the content of what you write, telling you what mood you were in when you were writing it, how many words you wrote, and loads of other useful information. It's definitely something worth checking out. So find your muse and get started writing!

Chris Fox is a novelist living in Fort Worth, Texas with his cat, Toby. He enjoys vegetarianism, Tumblr, bike culture, and feminism. You can find his Writer's Bloc series on Youtube here. He also keeps a personal blog to document all things beautiful, nerdy, and political here.


Leila said...

This is excellent. :) I've been trying to get my students out of their learned mindset that they are bad writers; they have had such bad experiences in the past that they have 0 self confidence when it comes to their writing, even though they are all amazing story-tellers!

It's also particularly fitting because I just got done doing my daily writing. I've been working on a book for a few years now, and honestly, writing is one of the most enjoyable things I do.

Cammila Albertson said...

I love the tone of this post! So many important things for writers to consider -- like retelling old stories, or shifting perspective. It's incredible how much strength you can engender in yourself as a writer if you exercise the muscles.

Tenia Lenae said...

This was really inspiring.. would you follow my blog..?