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Writing

Writing is a wrestling of words

Writing is like wrestling, a tug of war with words that only make sense when we put them down.

We anticipate the next letter, next word, the next sentence, with the prayer that it all comes together: grammar, structure, and meaning.

Perfection is futile. The only fight we win is taking on the resistance that begs us to quit and move on.

But a writer is who we are, what we do, compelled to inject letters, words, and sentences into a jigsaw puzzle with pen and paper and screens galore.

And then we beg for cohesion, only to be lucky if anyone else gets it.

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Books Quotes Writing

Abraham Lincoln on writing

“Writing, the art of communicating thoughts to the mind, through the eye— is the great invention of the world.”

Abraham Lincoln
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Creativity Writing

All writing is in the edit

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Like photography, all writing is in the edit.

When you fall into writer’s block — a myth, by the way — you should move freely between devices, formats, and even different places in order to shake out of it. Here’s one recommended writing approach I encourage you to try: 

First, start writing on paper to help generate ideas. Anything goes. Then type out what’s worth keeping on to your phone to finesse your text. Better yet, throw the first draft onto different apps like WordPress (read why I recommend WordPress for blogging here), Byword, Bear, or iAWriter and then process it for grammar through the Hemingway App or my favorite writing assistant, Grammarly.

In summary: 

  1. Write everything out on paper
  2. Type your notes out on your phone or computer
  3. Copy-paste written text into an app like Grammarly for proofreading

Blogger Michael Lopp sums up his writing process nicely in How to Write a Blog Post:

Repeat until it starts to feel done in your head. If it’s handwritten, type it into a computing device. When you are close to done, print it out on paper. Sit somewhere else with your favorite pen and edit your work harshly. If this piece is important, let someone else edit harshly.

That’s right! Print it out and edit it in a different place altogether. Some writers think better to the hum of the coffee shop, JK Rowling included. Others need absolute silence, preferring to stare at a wall so that the only work to look at is the one being created in the mind’s eye.

artwork by Alessandra Olanow

Write with intent to publish

Do you do your best proofreading after your writing is out there in the wild?

Write with intent to publish. Hitting the publish button forces you to scrutinize your work more closely. If you’re lucky it’s a blog post you can go back and edit. If it’s a tweet or an email, you might be fat out of luck.

The writing process is a messy one that includes not only different formats but also different writing environments. Sometimes a great sentence starts on paper; other times it starts on your smartphone. Just be ready to review it a few times before you hit publish.

Categories
Creativity Productivity & Work

Keep them guessing

They say write to be understood. But what’s the point in spelling it all out?

Said author William Faulkner in an interview with the Paris Review:

INTERVIEWER

Some people say they can’t understand your writing, even after they read it two or three times. What approach would you suggest for them?

FAULKNER

Read it four times.

Write to be misunderstood?

It doesn’t hurt to make an arcane reference here and there to keep the reader guessing. Obscurity is luminosity.

Said author Jonathan Franzen in lunch with the Financial Times:

“I think you have to have a few things that you have to kind of chew on to get.”

When you first listen to a new Radiohead song, something about it sounds off. But after a few listens, the sounds in between appear and ameliorate Thom Yorke‘s mystical voice. Nothing makes sense, but the emotional tug works, the same way laughter doesn’t need thought.

It shouldn’t be the author or musician’s goal to demystify everything. The maker is often still figuring it out himself, recasting their own interpretation.

Categories
Arts Life & Philosophy Writing

Writing helps you seek clarity

via giphy
  • Change the font
  • Write freehand or on a different device
  • Use prompts to help you get started
  • Sit and think about what you want to say. No computer. No pen and paper.

Because writing requires daily practice, doing it can get boring and predictable. It helps to have a system of hacks to drive the writing habit along the way.

Whether you’re writing a book, a blog post, or in a journal, writing is the most efficient way to purge your thoughts from the darkest and dormant corners of the brain. Writing is like talking to your therapist, a bicep curl that strengthens familiarity with your mind.

“I find that by putting things in writing I can understand them and see them a little more objectively. For words are merely tools and if you use the right ones you can actually put even your life in order.”

Hunter S. Thompson

You don’t have to be a published or aspiring author to write, nor do you have to be a student. Writing is a system for coping with the vicissitudes and celebrations of life.

As David Ogilvy once said, “People who think well, write well.” People who write well think well because it’s hard to clarify thoughts. The writer’s main challenge, therefore, is to find ways to keep on doing it.

Categories
Life & Philosophy Poetry Writing

Walking in circles

gif by Yali Herbet

Abstract thinking strings together collisions of thought, producing ever-more complexity or the deepest simplicity.

Tinkering with possibilities makes everything strange, at least at first. But that’s yesterday’s genius.

Today and tomorrow we’ll mill around some more, waiting for the most certain idea. Even the subconscious doesn’t give time off for the brain to relax.

Said one, “If a mind was so simple we could understand it, we’d be too simple to understand the mind.”

Crunching it all down to the essence, we complicate nothing. We’re always left circling the strange, with more questions than answers.