Or, things I am trying to do to improve both my writing and blogging.
Start a book blog, I decided, it’d be fun, I decided.
Yep, I’d say
about 75% of the time, yes, it is fun, I mean, I love reading and also talking
about books and passing on my opinions, I mean, what’s not to like?
Honestly, not much
but the biggest issue I’ve found so far along this 6 month journey or so has
been that the blank page scares me.
I’m not the
most confident of people and I’ve been thinking about the best way to do this,
I mean, I don’t want to be negative about any book or about any theme or
writing, but I do have to be honest, there are times when I’ve started and
(gasp) DNF a book, and then I’m left with the conundrum, do I write something
possibly negative or just don’t write anything at all.
I’d rather try
and be as positive as possible and if needs be, just avoid writing about the
things I specifically didn’t like but I also don’t want to be misleading.
I should also
say, I am quite open with the fact I read some real trash – I mean, the
National Enquirer for me is a perfect Saturday morning treat so I want to be
able to write about books I have chosen but with the caveat of this is trash
and I’m well aware of it – I don’t want to give myself airs and graces but I do
know some people who would quite happily judge and read the trash but would be
shocked and ashamed to admit it…..I’m not really worried if people judge me, I
just want to be able to write how I feel and what MY opinion, no matter the
I suppose over
all I should just write what comes to me, what I think and feel and then be
prepared for any feedback, positive and negative.
I am trying to
improve my blogging so if anyone has any thoughts or suggestions, am totally up
hundreds of other blogs and hints and tips from anyone who wanted to give them,
the only solution to combat writer’s block is hard work. There is no secret
magic place where all the inspiration is waiting for someone to bring it to
light. But, for a writer struggling with writer’s block, it seldom helps to
hear advice like “You overcome writer’s block by writing.”
There are two techniques
which together can help you ward off writer’s block and never to fear a blank
page again. Enter Ernest Hemingway and Steven Johnson. I saw these examples and
actually could see the logic and good points of both schools of thought.
Writing requires mental
energy. When you sit down to write your creative energy is most likely not
flowing. It’s the same as running or any other physical activity — you have to
There is some truth to the
old saying of always stopping while the going is good. Ernest Hemingway was
famous for perfecting this technique to fight writer’s block. And his method is
almost laughably simple.
“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you
know what will happen next. If you do that every day… you will never be stuck.
Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it
until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on
it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it, you
will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.” — Ernest Hemingway
When Hemingway had been
writing for a couple of hours and still had energy left, he stopped. Even
though he knew what to write next, he stopped. The next time he would sit down
to write, he would re-read the sentence and finish it. And then he was already
writing. No waiting for inspiration to strike. No nothing. Just complete the
work already in front of you and off you go.
The technique Hemingway used to get the creative juices flowing is superb to continue working on something you are writing. But what about the blank page, when you have nothing to write on? Because stopping mid-sentence and using this as a starting point is fine when you have something to continue on.
When you find it
hard to write in the morning or when you come home in the evening after a long
workday at your day-job, the energy needed to write might not be there at all.
One technique which has helped me a lot is to stack projects. The idea is that writing something — anything — will get your creative mind going, and before you know it you are oscillating between projects and are writing on all of them.
The writing can be
everything from a new blog post, an article or chapters in a book or
transcribing audio notes. When you have more projects going — with one main one
and several simmering on the side — you can always switch between them when you
get stuck in one.
You will always
have something to write somewhere by doing this and is not bound to keep on
hitting your head against a problematic passage in one project but are free to
switch around between them.
Science writer Steven Johnson calls this keeping a “Spark File.” This is where you store all your research and small tidbits of writings. Things — which is not necessarily about the project you are working on — or small sentences you like the sound of, but which is not fitting for the piece you are writing
Like so many people who want
to write but don’t know where to start, I also used to have a yearning to write
that I didn’t understand, let alone know what to do with. So I read a lot
Here are the six techniques
that I’ve read about being used over the last decade and am going to implement
myself to get myself going every time I fall off the writing bandwagon. Try
them — at least one of them is likely to work for you. And when it does, I
would love to hear about it.
- Continuous writing
This classic tool is classic
for a reason — it works like a charm. I have yet to start the timer, put pen to
paper and not find anything to write about. Even on days when
I solemnly swear there is nothing in me that wants to be written about, there
is still something that I didn’t know about that finds its way to the page.
In the writer’s workshops,
every single participant was able to write many pages using this tool, and they
always rated it as their favourite. If you’ve never tried it, give it a go!
Here’s what you do:
Get your notebook and pen
ready (or your blank document if you’re doing this electronically) and decide
how long you want to write for. Usually we do this for at least ten to twenty
minutes, but you can go for longer if you like. Or, you can decide on the
number of pages instead of time — say three to five pages, longhand.
Now you simply start writing.
That’s it. No pausing to think about what you want to say or, worse, how you
want to say it. Just write. No scratching out or deleting. Even if you have to
start with, ‘I don’t know what to write. This is so stupid. I can’t do this…’
that’s fine. Just carry on writing, you’ll go deeper before the first page is
2. Concrete descriptive
This one is fairly
comforting, because it doesn’t require much imagination or digging deep, not at
first. So it’s sneaky in a way — it uses the reassuring details of what’s
plainly visible to you to coax your pen to the page.
Here’s what you do:
It’s really very simple. Decide
on an object or situation to describe,and make sure it’s a concrete, visible
one. Don’t do this with complex emotions for now. Then start with the most
basic sentence to describe that — nothing fancy. For instance, it
could be your desk where you’re sitting right now. Or the view out of the
‘My desk is
Once you’ve got the basic
sentence down, start elaborating a bit. How is your desk
messy? What do you see? What does the actual desk look like? Where is the desk?
Just keep expanding until
you’ve done enough. Sometimes this only produces a decent sized paragraph,
which is still one paragraph more than you started with. At other times, this
can lead you down a rabbit hole and three pages later you’re still writing about
the coffee stain on the wood under your elbow as you’re writing.
3. Write as your speak
This was by far the most
common excuse for not writing that I heard at the workshops, and one that I
used on myself when I first ventured into blogging in particular.
know how to write what I want to say, but I can talk about it!’
And so we keep talking about
writing, instead of actually writing.
Here’s what you do:
Call your own bluff. If you
say you can talk about you topic, but every time you sit down to write about it
you’re at a loss for words, then speak up. See the process as simply taking
Sit by your desk, pen in
hand, and start talking to your imaginary listener, a friend perhaps. Then
write it down as you go. Word for word — no editing, no saying, ‘This is
stupid.’ Just write down your conversation. If you want, you can even record
yourself speaking, and then transcribe it, but that’s a lot of extra work. It’s
equally effective if you put your focus on the talking, and allow your hands to
simply come along for the ride.
4. Write like crap
That’s it — get it over and
done with. Write it so badly that it couldn’t possibly be done worse. Then — when
you decide to write it for real, you can rest assured that it can’t be worse
than it was before.
And if it is worse? Well,
then use the first draft, which wasn’t the worst one, and start editing.
Here’s what you do:
It’s a bit like plumbing for
your creative digestion. Just write whatever it is you feel is blocking your
ability to write ‘well’. But resolve to do it badly. In other words, it must be
You’ll be surprised at the
true gift of this tool — it’s actually quite hard to write badly! Once you’ve
experienced how truly challenging it is to write like shit, you’ll never have
to worry about this particular form of constipation ever again. The words will
flow now that you’re freed of the idea that you alwayswrite badly,
and you will produce writing on a regular schedule again. Once a day, at least.
5. Writing Practise
This is one I return to
often, especially when I’m writing in a new format, or when I feel my writing
is going stale. For instance, when I first started blogging, I had no idea how
to write a decent blog. I decided to seek out the blogs that I really enjoy
reading and copy some of them, word for word. (Obviously, you’re not meant to
publish these as your own — it’s just for practice.)
The same way students of fine
art have to copy the old Masters of painting, brush stroke for brush stroke,
copying exact colour mixes, brush size etc. Every detail counts. Even trainee
chefs learn by replicating a Michelin star chef’s signature dish. Writers must
do the same. That’s how we learn.
Here’s what you do:
Depending on what you want to
write, find your favourite role models in that genre. I’ve done this exercise
with novels, blogs and magazine articles, but you can do it with poetry, short
stories or even songs.
Decide on how much you want
to copy, (two pages, ten poems, three blog articles) and then start copying,
word for word. When layout is important, as in poetry or blogs, then make sure
you copy the exact layout — indents in the margin, upper case
and lower case, the font used etc. It’s the details that you want to learn, so
pay attention to them, word for word, character for character.
You’ll know when you’ve done
enough to start writing your own pieces, using what you’ve learnt. It’s an
organic learning process, so don’t become pedantic about it. Just practice
until you’ve had enough, then return to your own writing. It will naturally be
6. Take a writing course
There is something about
writing that makes us assume that we should be naturally good at it. Painters,
drawers, dancers, chefs, quilt makers and potters must all go and learn their
art, but writers? No. We should be do it naturally, or not at all. That’s one
of the myths around being a writer.
Writing is an art, just like
any other art form. And it’s perfectly acceptable to go an learn how to do it
from a course provider. Just because we’re taught to write as young children,
and continue doing so during most of our school and college years, and perhaps
even for our day jobs, doesn’t mean that writing, as an artistic expression, is
a natural skill.
I hope, if nothing else, some
of these tips might help others in this situation, I can’t be the only one