#1 – Write
#2 – Read
These are the tips I’ve found most helpful and frustrating when trying to find help in being a better writer. I know them to be true: how else am I going to become a writer unless I write? Kind of a dumb question. And reading goes along with that: unless I read what’s out there and see how it works (preferably by reading what good writers have written), how else will I learn?
What I’ve found frustrating, though, is that I cannot yet justify to myself that time spent reading isn’t simply time spent having fun. And time spent writing? Don’t get me started… Well, I got myself started – I’ll leave you out of it, dear reader… As of today, time spent writing is spent writing a sentence or two, if I’m lucky, then sitting and rooting out the words from my head for a few minutes. They do not flow. Not yet at least.
Yes, I know it takes practice. In fact, I have a very clear memory of my junior-year high school English class, in which the teacher required us to write for a period of time and read for a period of time every day without exception. My first entries were stream-of-consciousness: “I can’t think of anything to write about… I hate this… why do we need to write anyway… still can’t think of anything to write about… about which to write…” But by the end of the class, I’d written an actual story – one I was quite proud of really. I don’t have it anymore, but I recall it involved the two beer-swilling brothers from SCTV: they’d started a band and taken the US by storm. I think Canada had been planning to use their success as a way to overtake the US through propaganda. Or maybe it was aliens. Whatever – it was pretty funny and my teacher gave me an “A” and a heart-warming note about how it made her laugh.
So I know it can be done. It’s the practice part that I have to work on… Or, as I read all these sentences ending with prepositions, maybe it’s the grammar… then again, maybe not.
What I think this all boils down to is accepting that if I want to write for a living, I have to write. And in order to write, I have to read. My brain is just convoluted enough that if I put a task in the terms of “have to,” I won’t feel so guilty about doing it. “Do something for fun, are you daft?”
Mayhap I’ve come across the solution: write about something you enjoy. Screw you, ELance, I’m taking my credits-less talent elsewhere – you can keep your catalogue-description-writing jobs; I’m going to write about stuff I like. And then I’m going to sit on my butt and read a good book. ‘Cause it’s research.