Some people are natural writers. These are the folk who sneeze out perfect prose. I’m not fond of these people.
Then there are others – like me – who have to work really hard at it. Despite my education as a writer, my love of reading and more than ten years as a journalist and author, I still find writing a little hard and frustrating and disheartening.
And that’s on a good day.
‘The author’s lot,’ laments best-selling author, Dani Shapiro, ‘is this miserable trifecta: uncertainty, rejection and disappointment.’
While I agree to a point, I believe we should add some faith to the mix. You and I serve a magnificent, creative God, and if he’s called you to write and you are prepared to work hard and trust Him, improvements and – indeed – opportunities will come.
Perhaps you have a terrific idea for a book or feel compelled to share your life story. Maybe you don’t know the trajectory but believe writing is in your future. Some of you might love writing poetry or have a natural talent for song writing. Wherever you are on the writing spectrum all can benefit from the first of my handy tips.
Sounds simple enough. Right? But it’s amazing how many distractions stand in the way of us reading a good book. And ‘No honey,’ I say to my husband ‘Facebook is not really like reading a book.’
Reading takes time and discipline and of course, knowing which books to read. Years ago, a writing lecturer encouraged me to read The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean. At the time I couldn’t think of anything worse than reading a narrative about orchid growing in Florida, but that wasn’t the point. Orlean is a brilliant writer and can so cleverly craft her narrative to make even the dullest of subjects sound interesting.
David Leser, journalist and best-selling author of Time to Know, encourages us to read classics like Cold Blood by Truman Capote.
Jenna Glatzer, author of 26 biographies including Celine Dion’s, suggests budding writers read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, as well as On Writing by Stephen King.
My advice is to start building your own personal inspirational reading library. It will be different for everyone, but here are a few of my personal favourites:
Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado
Country driving by Peter Hessler
The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini
Still Writing by Dani Shapiro (Thank you Kylie Beach)
Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
1000 gifts by Ann Voskamp (thanks Julia A ’Bell)
As a daily discipline, apart from reading my Bible (which of course contains the most poetic prose ever written) I subscribe to the New York Times and the New Yorker. My goal is not to educate myself in the world’s ways but to improve my writing skills … and I’ll do this by being deliberate in my choice of reading material.
Another Captain Obvious tip but surprisingly one people ignore. If you want to be a better writer … then write! Dah!
Don’t wait for an invitation from a publisher or magazine editor, or for your creative director at church to commission you – just start writing.
“But write what?” I hear you say.
Anything. Write anything.
Start by writing in a journal (many people do it in the morning when they read their Bible) or creating a personal blog. Volunteer on the writing team at your church or local charity. Look for opportunities to contribute opinion pieces to newspapers or magazines.
If you had a desire to play tennis and win Wimbledon, your coach would say ‘Okay – you’d better start practising.” The same applies to writing.
In the early days of my career I wrote for charities, church, my friend’s blog page, and then in 2009, I was given my first real commission – a 1000 word story for a Christian magazine. I was paid $100.
No opportunity was too small or too insignificant and I have enjoyed every step of the journey.
To be continued …