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- So You Want To Be A Writer? That’s Mistake #1.
The Garret: Writers on writing. Bad Producer Productions. To hell with grammar, but only if you know the grammar first. To hell with formality, but only if you have learned what it means to be formal. To hell with plot, but you had better at some stage make something happen. To hell with structure, but only if you have thought it through so thoroughly that you can safely walk through your work with your eyes closed. The great ones break the rules on purpose.
They do it in order to remake the language. They say it like nobody has ever said it before. And then they unsay it, and they keep unsaying it, breaking their own rules over and over again. So be adventurous in breaking — or maybe even making — the rules. A first line should open up your rib cage. It should reach in and twist your heart backward. It should suggest that the world will never be the same again.
The opening salvo should be active. It should plunge your reader into something urgent, interesting, informative. It should move your story, your poem, your play, forward. But take it easy too. Achieve a balance. Let the story unfold. Think of it as a doorway. Once you get your readers over the threshold, you can show them around the rest of the house.
Open elegantly. Open fiercely. Open delicately. Open with surprise.
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Open with everything at stake. This, of course, is a bit like being told to walk a tightrope. Go ahead, then, walk the tightrope! Relax yourself into the tension of the wire. The first line, like the first step, is only the first of many, yet it sets the shape of what is to come. Try walking a foot off the ground, then two feet, then three. Eventually you might go a quarter mile in the sky. Then again, you might stumble and fall. No matter.
so you want to be a writer?
It is, after all, a work of the imagination. A writer is an explorer. It is still to be created. In the end your navel contains only lint. You have to propel yourself outward, young writer. The only true way to expand your world is to inhabit an otherness beyond ourselves. There is one simple word for this: empathy.
So You Want to be a Writer, by Charles Bukowski
Empathy is violent. Empathy is tough. Empathy can rip you open. Once you go there, you can be changed. Get ready: they will label you sentimental. But the truth is that the cynics are the sentimental ones. They live in a cloud of their own limited nostalgia. They have no muscularity at all. Remember, the world is so much more than one story. We find in others the ongoing of ourselves. In the end your first-grade teacher was correct: we can, indeed, only write what we know.
It is logically and philosophically impossible to do otherwise. We will have made a shotgun leap in our consciousness. We will not be stuck in the permanent backspin of me, me, me. As Vonnegut says, we should be continually jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.
The pleasure of insistence, of persistence. The pleasure of obligation, the pleasure of dependency. The pleasures of ordinary devotion. You have to show up for work. You have to sit in the chair and fight the blankness. A writer is not someone who thinks obsessively about writing, or talks about it, or plans it, or dissects it, or even reveres it: a writer is the one who puts his arse in the chair when the last thing he wants to do is have his arse in the chair.
Good writing will knock the living daylights out of you. Very few people talk about it, but writers have to have the stamina of world-class athletes. The exhaustion of sitting in the one place. The errors.
The retrieval. The mental taxation.
The dropping of the bucket down into the near-empty well over and over again. Moving a word around a page. Moving it back again. Questioning it. Doubting it. Increasing the font size. Shifting it around again and again. Sounding it out. Figuring the best way to leave it alone. Hanging in there as the clock ticks on. Not conceding victory to the negative. Dusting yourself off. Readjusting your mouth guard. Sustaining what you have inherited from previous days of work.
Your word cut is more important. You have to sit there sharpening that red pencil or hitting the delete button or flinging the pages into the fire. Often, the more words you cut, the better. A good day might actually be a hundred words fewer than you had yesterday. Even no words on the page is better than no time at the page at all. Writing a character into being is like meeting someone you want to fall in love with. Allow that to seep out later.
We are attracted by a moment in time — a singular moment of flux or change or collapse — not by grand curricula vitae. Be specific.
Go granular. The reader must fall in love with your characters quickly or indeed, learn to hate them quickly. We have to have something happen to them: something that jolts our tired hearts awake. Later on in the story we can settle down with them and get to know them in a wider sense. Sometimes we take a character from our own immediate lives and we build a new person upon that scarecrow. Or sometimes we take well-known characters in history and shape them in new ways.
Either way we have a responsibility to write them into life. In the end you should probably know your characters as well as you know yourself. The sound of her voice. The texture of her footsteps. Walk around with her for a while. Let her dwell in the rattlebag of your head. Finally, when I get home at night I type up my final copy and make all my last minute edits. Once all that is done I will post the entry. Like I said, writing is a hard skill to learn.
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It takes time and patience. You need to be writing every single day and honing your craft. Most people are these days. Yet, if you want to become a good writer then you will need to make writing a priority in your life. I recommend that you dedicate 2 hours a day to your writing. That includes brainstorming new ideas, typing up rough drafts, researching, typing up final copies, and doing your final edits and proofreading.
We all get 24 hours every day to do whatever we want. But writing must become a priority. Give yourself the 2 hours. I have finally started to gain momentum recently with my writing. I post between 4—5 new posts every single week. One of my favorite writing tools that I use is the Hemingway desktop app. It has helped me write much more succinctly and concisely.
This program has helped me take my writing to a whole new level. I am also a big fan of Grammarly. Both programs have been very good to me. There are several other writing tools out there that you can use. You just have to do a little bit of research on which ones will work the best for you.
In the early days of my blog…. I had a close friend of mine proofread my drafts for me. You might have to do the same. Build up a support network for yourself. Lean on friends and family if they will support you and help you. Be open to constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is one of the best ways you can improve yourself in any aspect of your life. Share your story and write about what matters to you.
The world wants to read what you are willing to share.