Ever since I started my Instagram page (@_thewritewords), people started to send me their work and asking me for advice on writing and how to get started. And since I wrote an earlier post titled “Why I Write” I thought it would be fitting that I do a follow up titled “How I Write”. The following is a set of practices and beliefs I have about writing. If you are an ambitious writer -either well established or you’re looking to get started- then feel free to take away what you will from the points I make in this article and apply them onto your own process.
Water the Seed
Before you start writing you’ll need something to write about. This could be anything that sparks your interests. When I first started writing I wrote about topics I would frequently discuss with my friends in a bar, at cafes, or on Whatsapp group chats. Those topics would be mostly politics and economics. I’m not an expert in either of those fields but I knew that’s what people wanted to read about and my naivety on those subjects brought with it a different perspective. So once you get the topic you want to write about you need to water that seed. Bring it up in conversation in social outings to get other people's opinions about it so that those opinions could then become your talking points. Do your own research on the matter. Or just let the seed grow and write from the heart.
When writing you tend to feel uninspired. You start to write and then stop a couple of sentences in and slam your laptop shut with frustration. It happens because the process isn’t easy. It’s not mean to be easy. It’s meant to be filled with feeling dejected, unmotivated, lost, regret, unease, and all of the terms that point to a sense of self-doubt. That’s why it’s important to get inspired. Listen to music. Or a podcast. Read a book or watch a movie. Go for a run or a walk. Draw inspiration from anywhere, everywhere. Whatever it takes to lift that 37-ton boulder of resentment squashing you down so that you can start to get all those bottled emotions and thoughts out of you.
Easier said than done but once you manage to get a few sentences out it's like finally turning that rusted valve of an old faucet and letting the water gush. So just start writing. And try not to stop. Try to finish a whole piece just to get it out of you. Then close the laptop and come back to it the next day. You might want to change some of what you wrote or you might want to change all of it. Either way, it’s a start.
Less is More
When I first started writing I always thought that sounding sophisticated in my writing meant that the writing was better. So I opted for big words and overly packed statements and sentences. But then I realized that didn’t make my writing better at all, it just made me sound obnoxious. That’s why the number one rule of writing worldwide and throughout time is “less is more”. If you can say it in one word instead of three, do it. Use a simple word wherever a complex one exists. Nobody likes a show-off. Remember writing isn’t easy, at all. Not a lot of people like to read and once they start reading you have a window of about 5 seconds to reel them in and keep them there. Try to keep it as simple as possible.
Find Your Tone
It’s hard to describe what tone in writing is because it’s writing and so you can’t really hear someone’s tone of voice, but you sort of can. It’s weird. My advice to understanding tone of voice and getting acquainted with yours is to keep writing and eventually, you’re going to get it. Don’t enforce made up guidelines and rules onto yourself because that way you’re just boxing yourself in. Just be true to yourself and write how you would speak. For example, I might use the word ‘fuck’ sometimes just to emphasize that it’s coming from the heart. Don’t try to write from someone else’s mindset. Tap into your own tone of voice and type through it.
Put Yourself Out There
That part of self-doubt that I mentioned in the beginning never tends to go away. It really is itself the whole process. It consumes you throughout, you never think what you’re writing is good, and you never will. But all the self-doubt in the world shouldn’t stop you from putting yourself out there. Especially because you’re probably going to be posting your stuff on the Internet, so essentially you are tapping into a vast, endless amount of people. Someone somewhere is bound to like what you have written. Thus all that self-doubt about no one liking your stuff, or no one will read it, is baseless. So stop overthinking and just write, you never know who’ll read it.
Don’t Do It
Charles Bukowski’s advice to budding writers who want to get started was “don’t do it”. At face value that quote/advice is off-putting. But in reality, it’s the best advice you can get. What he meant by don’t do it was that if it doesn’t consume you, if it’s not something you absolutely love and have to do, then don’t do it. Don’t waste your time and the time of the reader. If you’re doing it for shares or clicks or doing it because you think it’ll get you attention or Internet accolades, don’t do it. Writing is a release, it’s more than just for fun. I don’t want to do it, I have to do it. That mindset is what ultimately shapes your writing because you can tell when someone is faking it and when someone is making it. And if it really is something you want to do then you owe it to yourself to try. Don’t pass on your passions.
I hope you were able to take one thing away from all this and that it will help you with your writing process. If so I’m glad. Start writing and I look forward to seeing your stuff out there.
Follow my Instagram page @_thewritewords