Sunday, February 19, 2017

An exercise in writing

Tonight I am setting aside an hour to write, and something from what I write I will post on the blog.

It's 7 p.m. Sunday. The NBA All-Star Game is about to start. I have it on but don't plan to watch too closely. It's possible Gene will interrupt me so I can watch him work on QuickBooks.

I want to regain confidence in my writing so I can return to writing for pay. Is there a class I need to take to move toward this?

I Googled "how to become a better writer." Ah, yes. That's the ticket. (Although what I really need is how to get back to writing, period. Fortunately, this addresses that, too!)

I found 15 tips from Leo Babauta, a professional writer who blogs about goals, habits, productivity, simplifying and more at

I think the most important one for me is No. 5, and he describes my situation well:

"Just write. If you’ve got blank paper or a blank screen staring at you, it can be intimidating. You might be tempted to go check your email or get a snack. Well, don’t even think about it, mister. Just start writing. Start typing away — it doesn’t matter what you write — and get the fingers moving. Once you get going, you get in the flow of things, and it gets easier. I like to start out by typing things like my name or a headline or something easy like that, and then the juices start flowing and stuff just pours out of me. But the key is to just get going."

That's actually what I'm doing right now ...  (Unlike this next one, which I may not try until Tuesday.)

Probably second most important for me is his No. 6, and I'm sure it will be the hardest for me:

"Eliminate distractions. Writing does not work well with multi-tasking or background noise. It’s best done in quiet, or with some mellow music playing. ... Turn off email or IM notifications, turn off the phone and your cell phone, turn off the TV, and clear off your desk … you can stuff everything in a drawer for now until you have time to sort everything out later … but don’t get into sorting mode now, because it’s writing time! Clear away distractions so you can work without interruption."

Other ideas that resonated:

"Get feedback. You can’t get better in a vacuum. Get someone to read over your stuff — preferably a good writer or editor. Someone who reads a lot, and can give you honest and intelligent feedback. And then listen. Really try to understand the criticism and accept it and use it to improve. ..."

"Put yourself out there. At some point, you’ll need to let others read your writing. Not just the person who you’re allowing to read it, but the general public. ... If you’re already doing a blog, that’s good, but if no one reads it, then you need to find a bigger blog and try to submit a guest post. Putting your writing out in the public can be nerve-wracking, but it is a crucial (if painful) part of every writer’s growth. ..."

Among Babauta's other suggestions:

* Read great writers. (I struggle with this. Maybe I need to also schedule at least 30 minutes a day to read. I don't think I've ever done that.)
* Create a writing ritual. "Whatever works for you, make it a must-do thing every single day. Write for at least 30 minutes, but an hour is even better." (I am working on this. It's been a goal for a couple of weeks, and maybe tonight is the start.)
* Plan.
* Experiment.
* Revise and rewrite.
* Be concise.

I like these ideas and I think they will help. I have to admit I just looked at the clock -- 7:50. Ten more minutes. Then I started trying to find out how to get those two hyphens to be a long dash. I found the instructions, but it didn't work. I guess I'll work more on that tomorrow.

Because:  It's 8 p.m. I'm out of here. But this was good. I am grateful.

Postscript: The next day, I found the HTML code for an em dash in this operation — but did it work? Yes! Yay! (I also see now that I could have copied and pasted an em dash from the "Just write" text I copied and pasted above. But then I would not have learned this code that will be good for me to know.)

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