You become a writer much like you become a jogger. You are a jogger when you put on running shoes and start running — and the shoes are optional. You are a writer when you start writing and sharing your work with others — sharing your work is optional. Nobody gets stronger by not lifting weights. In the same way writers don’t get better by not writing or by refusing to publish their work. Today it is easy to publish yourself by starting a blog. This will get your writing in front of others. The mechanics of publishing yourself with a blog is so easy and inexpensive that there is no excuse for not doing it — except fear.
In theory, it is easy to start a blog and see if you can build a following. Every writer should do it. In reality, it’s not the mechanics of posting a blog that stops writers from sharing their work — it is bold naked fear. It is terrifying to put your heart and soul into your writing and then throw it out in public to see what happens. Writers, however, need to develop a thick skin. Everyone can be a critic. It is the rare few that have the discipline and courage to express their personal truth in clear and simple language and put it out for critical review. This is why it is so important for writers to network with and support each other. One writer can help another and both can build a bigger combined audience. The more hot links in your blog, the higher it gets ranked in the search engines. Everybody wins.
It is the voice of writers echoing through the halls of history that allows ideas to take on a life of their own. Writing is all about the search for truth and expressing what you find in a beautiful way. Truth must be rediscovered anew by each generation. Writers of older generations pass forward their truth to younger generations. We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before. The next generation will stand on our shoulders.
Old writers tell their truth to the next generation. Young writers interpret that truth and express it to their own generation. By doing so they pass it forward once again. Hopefully, the new voices of each generation will build upon and transcend the core message of truth that was expressed by older generations.
“There is nothing new under the sun.
All that is happening now, has happened before
and will happen again.”
~ Ecclesiastes ~
There is, however, one important glitch. Most great writers are not widely recognized until after they die. Don’t let this frighten you, however. Writing won’t kill you. So if you want to be a writer, here’s what you need to do. Write and keep writing. Share your work and keep sharing it. Never stop because writing is important — YOUR writing is important. Write it even if you believe you have nothing important to say — because whether your believe it or not you do. Every person has a story. All true stories express an aspect of truth. Write about what you know. Express your truth. That’s all any of us can do.
I believe that all of recorded history lives in the brain/mind of every living person. Art allows us to feel that flow of history within our own soul. Science allows us to structure knowledge in a way that it can be used. Writing allows us to pass it forward through time and space to future generations. Writing is a form of faith. You have to believe that somehow, to someone, your writing will make a difference. Writing can truly make us immortal. Look at the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. We don’t know their names. Their work was buried in the desert for centuries. Yet their voice is known to all humanity and teaches us of their time. Their work shows us our past and, if viewed correctly, will point the way to our future.
Now I want to talk about some important nuts and bolts I’ve learned about writing over my career.
1. When expressing ideas, shorter is better, as long the meaning is retained. The best advice I ever received was to write my first draft and then mercilessly cut unnecessary words and find the “turn of a phrase” that expressed the idea more concisely.
2. Reduce your ideas from paragraphs, to sentences, to phrases, to words and then build them back out again. My best work has come when I have reduced ideas to short bullet points that could be understood, at least intuitive, without being explained. Here are some examples: Craving is a hunger for drugs; Everyone suffers from addiction, either their own or that of someone else. Read these simple phrases and pause after each. See if they communicate a meaning beyond the words used to express them:
- Early Relapse Warning Signs;
- Triggers for Craving;
- High Risk Situations;
- Self-defeating Thinking;
- Addictive Insanity
These short bullet points literally force the minds readers to gather previously unrelated thoughts into an epicenter of understanding. Unrelated ideas become a unified concept. Concepts become the calmness at the eye of the storm of mental confusion. Finding these precise bullet statements is time-consuming part. It is, in my opinion, the most difficult part of writing about non-physical realities of the mind and spirit. These bullet points make the nonphysical concrete by embodying it in a thought. There is good news.
When the concepts are stripped down to their bare essence and the bullet points are engraved in writing, you will have a really good set of power point slides. The process of reducing complex ideas to a single word or phrase that encompasses the essential meaning is called conceptual integration. This will be the focus of a future blog, so keep following! There is another problem! Clear concepts are necessary, but alone they are not enough.
3. Good writing must be humanized. All great novels both paint vivid pictures in the mind of the reader and make powerful conceptual points that shoot into the mind of the reader like a bullet of thought that links the imagery with the idea. The difference between a novel, and a readable non-fiction writing is the primary organizational structure. The novel is built around a blot that progresses as characters grow and develop in response to challenges. The information and philosophical principles of life and living are definitely there but are secondary to the compelling plot line and the characters that you either love or love to hate. Non-fiction is organized around presenting information and ideas. It is humanized by giving examples that areas vivid and compelling as any scene in a great novel. Then comes the hook.
4. The hook is the simple trick that makes people want to read the next paragraph. The hook goes fishing for the reader’s curiosity. If you can make the reader curious about what comes next people will keep reading and you will have written a page turner. Do I do it?
You will have to judge for yourself by checking out my blogs: www.terrygorski.com
If this were a class, I would ask you to go back, read this blog again, and notice all of the hooks. I would then ask you to determine if I am better at summarizing ideas or illustrating ideas in compelling examples. Share this blog with a colleague who is a writer, do these two assignments, and then discuss them.