How to Write: Part 1
By Stephanie Lynn, age 25, Massachusetts
How to write. Hmmm. That's a tough one. Everyone writes differently, so tips or theories one person might find helpful may totally not work for someone else. I think that's because we're each wired differently. Therefore, for those who may be wired at least a little bit like me, I offer the following advice.
STEP 1: Get idea.
STEP 2: Start writing about idea.
STEP 3: Keep writing about idea until it's good.
STEP 4: Get another idea ...
STEP 47: Become great writer.
The #1 way to become a better writer is to write! There is no substitute for doing it other than doing it. Generally speaking, the more you write, the better you will get at it. By this, I mean two things: 1) the amount of time you're able to dedicate to it each week, and 2) the span of time, year after year, that you stick with it. As with a sport or other skill, true, there is no substitute for "born with it" talent, but natural ability is simply wasted without regular practice. A great athlete, musician, or writer is born with a brain wired to do their thing well, but it still requires training and a lot of practice.
Writing involves natural talent, technical skills which can be learned, and finally, inspiration. Writing is a mode, a frame of mind, a groove. You get into the groove, the flow, and let it take you where it wants to go. Later, you can always go back and consider if it's true brilliance or self-deluded nonsense, but once in the groove, don't let anything interrupt you. This also means, when you sit down to write, be sure to block out a substantial chunk of time, so you won't have to rush off to somewhere should you get into the groove. Whenever you get writer's block, perhaps you should stop writing for the moment and read - read stuff that inspires you, angers you, pushes you. Then, when you're ready, start writing again.
My first draft is usually not my best, and never my final product. I think one mistake writers sometimes make is to dash off something quick and submit it. This is fine for a Facebook comment or daily blog entry, I guess, but when it comes to striving for excellence, first efforts are a mix of raw inspiration, half-baked good ideas, and complete crap. Every rule has its exception, and sometimes greatness comes out perfected in the first draft of a poem, story, or article. But usually not. More often it's like a cake so rushed that a key ingredient is omitted, like sugar or eggs, and then the cake is frosted while still hot, causing the frosting to melt and run down the sides. It's saying, "Happy birthday, uh, like I care."
I like to re-read my work with fresh eyes after having slept on it. Inevitably I make a bunch of small and medium sized changes which substantially improve it. Good writers hold their work overnight and work on it again the next day to check and improve it. You'd be surprised what a good night's sleep and fresh eyes will do for your work! For longer, more complicated, or higher quality pieces, working on them over a number of days or even weeks is good advice. Works for term papers too! It's a great tip for turning a B paper into an A or A-. Of course, you need to be disciplined enough to return to finish the job. If you're not a good finisher of things left 'til later, or you've procrastinated and left the project 'til last minute, you may want to address that first!
Allow no distractions. When you write something you care about, and you get into the creative groove, and the thoughts and words are coming like water out of a fireman's hose, you will feel a rush of endorphins (or whatever it is). Yes, you should re-examine and edit the next day to fix grammar and flow and check that you weren't delusional. But right now, turn off your cell phone, cast your college roommate and her annoying boyfriend out of your dorm room, ignore the urge to fiddle with Facebook or rewatch a re-run, and instead go with the flow and write 'til you fall fast asleep.