Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Writing What We Care About

It is always best for writers to write about what they are passionate about. If something really matters to you, you should write about that because you will have the most likelihood to have the manuscript written. Otherwise, writers who don't have a passion about what they are writing have a tendency to let such manuscripts fall by the wayside before completing them.

I find that with myself I never write about anything that I am not passionate about. In fact, most of the time my writing projects are derived from questions that I have or tragedies that I have seen second hand. Sometimes, if I am angry about something, I will write about that. That anger propels me to write the manuscript quickly.

For instance, some writers write solely to make money. Many writers can write for that reason for a while and then after a while their projects peter out and they start losing energy somewhere along the line. Some such writers have to drag themselves kicking and screaming to the finish line. What a torturous way to write!

I'm not saying that writers should not write for money. I'm just saying that writers should also write for the sheer love of writing about topics that they really care about. This will make their lives as writers much more meaningful and fulfilling. This may inspire you to write more consistently.

The best way for writers to write about what they care about is to sit down and make a list of topics that they really care about and then to write about the ones that they are most passionate about. For instance, my list of topics are as follows:

- Friendship
- Peer pressure
- How to avoid bullying
- How to avoid being too thin
- How to deal with the negative messages that the media sends girls
- How could we avoid perfectionism when it comes to our weight
- The pressure of overachievement for girls
- The pressure to conform

So, when I am writing nonfiction articles, I will probably be writing about one of these topics because I really care about them.

So, what topics do you care about? What would you like to delve in deeper? Make a list of such topics and then you will know what you need to research and start writing about.

Happy searching!


Monday, January 11, 2010

Give up on Perfectionism

When I first started writing a long time ago, it was difficult for me not to give in to perfectionism in my writing. I would fret and stew over each and every word. And that used to drive me crazy. I would really struggle to get anything at all out on the page. But why cause so much turmoil for myself, I wondered? Why not just relax and get the initial writing done first and then worry about perfecting the prose?
Perfectionism takes many different forms in writing. It may mean that you are paralysed to write because you feel that you haven't researched the topic enough. Or you may be uncertain because you don't think that you wrote the manuscript with a sufficient amount of specificity, sophistication or clarity. All of these uncertainties can really affect your overall output as a writer.
Writers must write, despite the fact that they don't have enough facts or information. Chances are if you have been doing a lot of reading and researching a topic, you have a sufficient amount of information to write about the topic. You aren't writing a doctoral dissertation after all.
Most writers cannot know everything there is to know about a topic anyway. It seems that there is just so much information out there that you could easily get information overload if you read for too long or take out too much material on a particular topic. Read a moderate amount of material and then start writing.
Once you start writing just keep writing without ceasing until you have a first draft of your manuscript. Don't let petty self-critical tactics stop you from putting the words on the page. Just write the first draft of your manuscript without worrying. Then, if after you have written the first draft, you find that you need more information or more research you could always add it later.
The same holds for word usage. If after you have written your manuscript you find that the language is either too sophisticated or not sufficiently sophisticated for your audience, you could change the words to reflect your audience. That is very much part of the redrafting stage and is a fundamental part of writing for the precise readership that you are intending your manuscript.
As in everything, balance is the key. Don't be a slacker and fail to do the research that is needed before you start writing. However, don't paralyse yourself with undue perfectionism either. Just dive in and get the manuscript written. You will be very glad when you have a first draft on your computer that you could then revise and make it better and better.
So strive for balance instead of perfectionism in your writing!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Is Writing Mostly Rewriting?

Writers find that after their initial burst of raw writing, much of the final product is the result of revision. Most writers spend as much time revising as they do writing. This goes for writers who write books and articles and novels.

However, having said that, most writers spend some time at least in the creation phase when they are trying to get as many words on the page as possible. That is part of the fun of writing and it is the inspiration stage of writing.

For myself, this is the best stage of writing. I just love to be able to sit at my notebook computer and just type whatever comes into my mind. There is nothing more liberating than that for a writer. However, this is not the be all and the end all is it? After the writer has typed the words on the page, then the arduous task of revision starts in earnest.

Some writers not only accept the importance of revision but accept it with gusto. I will be honest I accept and know importance of revising in my own work, but I don't like to revise. I just know that it is a necessity. I actually find revising boring, and did for a long time until I had a real revelation a while ago.

Revision is like tidying a messy drawer or cleaning a cluttered room. What you are really doing is getting rid of what you don't need in your manuscript as you would get rid of things you don't need in a room such as pop cans, water bottles, extra books that you will not be using right away, and extraneous files. When I started seeing revision like a cleansing process, I started viewing revision with the same kind of necessity as keeping my study decluttered. And that is when I excelled at the process of revising.

So, writer, declutter your manuscripts by taking the time to revise them. Get rid of all of the extraneous material such as redundant words, passive phrases, typos, grammatical errors, repetitions, and so on. Your manuscript will feel much lighter and cleaner.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Peak Writing Times

Each of us has times of the day when we are much more productive than others. These are the times when we are at our peak performance levels and we should schedule to do most of our writing during these times without interruption. Of course, interruptions are all around us. But it is important for serious writers to limit such interruptions to after they are finished their important writing tasks for the day.
Many writers find that it is easier to write first thing in the morning when they are fresh. They usually refrain from checking email, opening their snail mail, or answering the telephone. They set a one to two hour block of time to do their writing consistently. Such writers are most successful in maintaining their writing regiment.
I am such a writer. As some of you know, I wake up each morning an hour earlier than any of my family members and just sit and write for at least an hour. I find these times really quiet and I can concentrate most during such times. I have been writing in the mornings for over twenty years and it has become so ingrained in me that if I don't write, I feel like something important is missing in my life.
Some writers find that it is easier for them to write later in the evening once dinner is done and over with and the kids and husband are watching television. All you have to do is skip one or two regular shows on television that you could do without and you have a writing schedule in place. Consistency is the key when you are setting up a writing schedule. And there is nothing more consistent than a daily television program.
If you don't yet know when you write best, you could discover your peak performance times by writing at different times. You could start by writing in the morning for a while. Set your alarm for a half an hour earlier and sit down and write for a few weeks and see how things go. Then try writing in the evening, and see if that is a better time for you. Then once you have determined what your peak writing time is, schedule to write during those times at least four times a week, and see your confidence as a writer soar.
Once you discover your peak writing times, it will be much easier for you to get your writing done.
To discovering your peak writing times!

Planning for the week's Writing

There is one important thing that writers should do every week before a brand new writing week starts writers should write down their writing and marketing plans for the next week. I usually determine my writing goals on Sunday afternoons. I write down all my writing goals for the week. Then I write all of my marketing goals.

Once I have done that, I type it up and paste it up on the wall in front of me so that I could follow it each day. That way when I sit down to write, I know what project I should tackle and when I plan to complete a particular project.

I think this is very important for writers. I know that the weeks that I don't take the time to plan out my week aren't productive weeks. They are weeks that are quite disorganized and in which I sort of float from activity to another without any kind of intentionality or goal in mind. And that usually makes for a lot of wasted time.

So, I would suggest that all of you create a template for yourselves. It doesn't have to contain the same divisions. You may have to create a few templates before deciding which one will work best for you. If you create it on your computer, you could print it off each week and fill it in with the activities that you plan to do each week.

My template has five main headings: First, I list all the contacts that I will make each day. Second, I list all the job boards, Ezines or newspapers that I will read and visit during the week. Third, I list all the promotional activities that I need to do during the week to promote myself. Fourth, I list all the networking activities that I will be pursuing. And lastly, I write out my writing schedule and goals for the week.

You could use how I plan my week to create your own template. But whatever you do writers please take the time to do this. You will be very glad that you did.

And let me know how you make out. I would love to hear from you!


Motivation is not the same as Inspiration

Today, I would like to reflect on the difference between 'motivation' and 'inspiration'. I think that the two concepts are quite different despite the fact that inspiration can propel motivation and help us bring about our writing goals.
Motivation is the reason behind one's actions or behaviors. So, for instance, if you intend to write a book in a year, you should be motivated to perform the regular writing tasks in order to produce the manuscript. Inspiration, on the other hand, is the ability to feel something behind the activity. Its like a coloured landscape instead of a grey and white one.
Thus, it is not enough for a writer to be motivated to write; (s)he must also be inspired to write in order for the project to get completed. I believe that reasons alone are not sufficient for a writer to bring about his/her writing projects over the long-term. The writer must also be inspired and have a passion to write. Passion is very necessary in that it flavours the writers motivations and gives them significance. Let me explain.
Consider the following scenario. Say you prepare a wonderful stew but you forget to put salt, pepper and some spices in your stew. Although you love stew, it tastes bland. You eat it the first day but it doesn't give you any real enjoyment. The next day, you have some leftover stew but you don't want to eat it. So, you decide to order Pizza instead and try to eat it the next day. However, the next day you can't face the stew either. Ultimately, you throw the stew away because you can't bear the thought of eating it.
We can say similar things about writing with inspiration. When you write merely from a motive to do so, your writing may be bland. And although you may be able to stick to a writing schedule for a few days, you won't be able to stick to it for longer than that because you are not inspired to write. It just becomes a bland activity that isn't seasoned that you perform without much passion.
So fellow writers, why not season your writing goals with inspiration. Your daily practice will be much more meaningful and consistent when it isn't bland and you will look forward to it as you would look forward to a nice warm, salty and spicy slice of Pizza.
Happy New Year, and may you find not only the motive to write but also the inspiration!