Posts tagged ‘Writer’s Block’

Wisdom from Unexpected Places

Ever have that moment where you are captivated by a popular book or magazine but you just can’t pinpoint why it’s awesome? Yeah, me too. One of the best ways to become a good writer is of course, as any English teacher will tell you, to read. I agree, but I think there is a little more to it than that. Simply reading stacks and stacks of books is not only time consuming, but exhausting. Time is better spent looking deep into works that you absolutely love. Ask yourself questions and answer them. Find out what it is that makes that book or even sentence so interesting and enthralling!

I found myself asking such questions earlier today when I began browsing through the many pages of a Cosmo magazine. I came upon an article that I found to be very entertaining. The subject of the article was not especially eye-catching and was old news to me, which got me thinking about what exactly made the article so interesting. Later, I realized it was all thanks to a very simple trick: the writer knew her audience. She wrote as if she was speaking to a best friend, using all kinds of age-appropriate lingo and relaxed language. Just by tweaking the way she wrote, she brought a flat subject to life.

I often find that I get inspirations and ideas about how to improve my work from the most unexpected places (such as a racy magazine like Cosmo). Even writing I don’t like has a lot to offer; I can recognize what doesnt work (which is at times even more important). Dissecting a broad spectrum of writing samples can do more for a writer than he or she ever imagines. Sometimes, waiting for inspiration works, but most of the time you have to work for it, or at least make yourself perceptive to it. Jean Cocteau said “The poet doesn’t invent.  He listens.” Understanding how writing works is the same way.

What will you discover in an ordinary thing today?

The Importance of Social Networking for Writers

With the sudden influx of social networking sites has come a number of concerns from just about everyone, be it about privacy, productivity, even the ability to make meaningful relationships in the real world. These are all legitimate concerns, and ones that should be considered if one decides to join a social network (but let’s face it, most people today are part of one).

The good news is, it can actually be a healthy activity for aspiring writers. Frequently updating  a Facebook or Twitter status is much like writing down a stream of consciousness, which is an exercise that writers sometimes use to help with writers block. Many people go throughout the day thinking about how to post about something amazing or terrible that just happened, or ponder a specific topic they’d like to share with others later. By actively engaging the mind to deliberately write thoughts down, people are developing their writing skills, whether they know it or not.

An important element of being a writer is practice. Very rarely do I wake up in the morning and have my head filled with perfect stories, phrases, and vocabulary. More often, I sit at my workstation for long periods of time, hoping for inspiration and feeling like my brain is bleeding. Even when I have great ideas, it seems easier said than done to get them out on paper without spoiling them. One of my professors, Dr. Todd Petersen, suggests an exercise he uses to get the mind flowing. This consists of carrying note cards with you everywhere you go, and writing thoughts, observations, and ideas on them throughout the day to use later.

This is a great exercise, but in a world of electronics, carrying around note cards all day can be a little old fashioned and cumbersome. Beyond that, most people who do use social networks do this exercise already with status updates (this method is a lot more accessible and organized). This is perhaps an even better way to log thoughts and inspirations, for the writer is not trying so hard to come up with impressive ideas. Friends and family members can also add their own comments and give feedback, as well as share concepts that others can develop.

Having a wealth of ideas to choose from can be vital when it comes time to actually start a project. Annie Dillard, author of The Writing Life, demonstrates the importance of putting ideas into action when she said,

“Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.”

Whether one uses Facebook, Twitter, or some other exercise, it’s important to write every day even if it is just a few clever one liners. The internet is what you make of it, even as far as social networking goes. It is possible to spend a lot of time online and still be productive. The art of language is everywhere, and you just might find it in places you never thought you would.