Wednesday, September 08, 2010

how to write less badly


Carleen linked to this great little article in the Chronicle of Higher Education: 10 Tips on How to Write Less Badly, by By Michael C. Munger. It's geared toward scholarly nonfiction, but a lot of the points make sense for any kind of writing. Here are two of my favorites.
4. Give Yourself Time. Writers sit at their desks for hours, wrestling with ideas. They ask questions, talk with other smart people over drinks or dinner, go on long walks. And then write a whole bunch more. Don't worry that what you write is not very good and isn't immediately usable. You get ideas when you write; you don't just write down ideas... Writing can be magic, if you give yourself time, because you can produce in the mind of some other person, distant from you in space or even time, an image of the ideas that exist in only your mind at this one instant.
We all know that writing well takes dedication, practice and patience. And yet, I still struggle with creating a regular writing habit. 500 words a day, five pages a week, one story a month, monthly writing goals - you name it, I've tried. They all work, for a little while, and I keep bouncing back from one trick to the next. As long as I'm producing something, then it's okay to switch things up. Currently, I'm writing once a week at the coffee shop. It's working, but I need to add more writing sessions to my week. One day out of seven is not nearly enough.
7. Write, then squeeze the other things in. Put your writing ahead of your other work. I happen to be a "morning person," so I write early in the day. Then I spend the rest of my day teaching, having meetings, or doing paperwork. You may be a "night person" or something in between. Just make sure you get in the habit of reserving your most productive time for writing. Don't do it as an afterthought or tell yourself you will write when you get a big block of time. Squeeze the other things in; the writing comes first.
This is my biggest issue. Balancing a 40 hour work week, marathon training, two dogs, and a relationship is tough enough. Adding a daily writing practice is even harder, but that doesn't mean it's not necessary. I need to stop complaining, stop making excuses, and make it a priority.

As I fine tune my MFA writing portfolio and contribute to my two writing workshops, writing will take it's rightful place at the top of my list. Deadlines help, and I've got a bunch of them looming. Onward and upward we go!