Being A Better Writer

By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette

Yes We Can

This may come as a surprise to some, but I spend a lot of my time writing. I write every day, as a matter of fact. While audiences see the majority of that work here in these pages, I do spend some time writing for myself. Yes, I write even when I don’t have to.

Several of my columns relate to recent events happening with me, or conversations I’ve recently had. This week’s topic was decided by a question I was asked not once, but twice during the week: “How do you keep motivated in writing?”

I’d love to say I can pop out of bed every morning with a head full of ideas, march straight over to my laptop, and start powering out a collection of words. Some days, that’s possible. Other days, I can stare at my screen for a while, and not even know how to start the first sentence. There’s always a risk of experiencing lack of creativity, feeling unmotivated, or in the worst case scenario, writer’s block.

At the end of the day, writing is a discipline, and in order to be good at it, you have to do it often. There’s no difference in a daily writing routine than the person who goes to the gym every single day. It’s still exercise; you’re simply using a different muscle.

And exercise needs its warm up as well. Imagine running a mile without doing some warm-up stretches first. Sure, technically you can do it, but will it be your best effort? There’s also a risk of locking up without building up momentum. While there are no leg cramps involved with writing (though to be fair, there’s nothing worse than sitting for a while to find your leg’s fallen asleep), if you can’t find inspiration, sitting there is just as crippling.

To answer my earlier “motivation” question, I simply write more. With something “dry” or time-consuming, I tend to do creative writing exercises. My latest warm up trend is reviewing films. I love critiquing films, and everything that goes into them. My creative style changes with what is essentially a set topic.

For films I enjoy, I tend to write with enthusiasm or admiration, an appreciation of “feeling” that comes from something artistic that touches you.

In contrast, if it’s a film I don’t like, I get to dive into my sense of sarcasm. It’s fun making jokes at the ridiculous, and I find the criticism to be a palette cleanser.

I also tend to write about things currently happening in my life, from daily events to tackling larger problems. I find the added perspective gives me depth to my work, and a better sense of understanding.

From there, once the momentum of writing is built up, I immediately transition to my writing topic at hand. It also helps me push out longer pieces faster, so I can relax for at least part of my day.

But I also spend a lot of time reading over my own work. I try to present, as once complimented on before, a higher level of content. I like writing things that are challenging for myself and the reader. It’s easier to lift people up through new ideas than keep people down through low quality content. I’ve worked in “content mills” before. If the reader isn’t getting anything out of what I’m writing, then it’s not helping anyone. That includes myself as well.

It’s also important to know your audience. It doesn’t matter how well-written your latest masterwork is. If your work is shared with a crowd not receptive to the content, you’ll literally hear the “THUD” of your latest piece tanking. Write something relatable that people can see themselves in. That’s not always going to be instantly apparent, but certain pieces will land better than others. Read the room in terms of tone, see what your audience goes for, and as you build a rapport with them, they’ll start building trust with you. Trust goes a long way.

Spelling and punctuation. Use spellcheck. Use a second set of eyes. Something rushed and poorly written is a dealbreaker. There is always a deadline somewhere, but a careless mistake lasts far beyond any time constraint. Don’t write like you might text.

And finally, I’d also recommend reading. A lot. And about different subjects. The best way to experience personal growth is to try something new. I cannot stress research and fact-checking enough.

My motivation comes from keeping people interested in the larger world around them, and providing support where I can. It’s not always easy, and at some points can feel overwhelming, but challenge has its own appeal.

For those that keep reading my works week after week, your support keeps me going as well.

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Categories: Opinion