Almost About Anything

Are you a new writer struggling to get ideas for the articles you need to write? If so, you are not alone. It takes time and practice for any writer, no matter how good or how well trained, to learn to come up with good article ideas quickly. So do not be discouraged. Instead, learn from the advice of other writers. I can give advice about article writing because it is what I do.

My first bit of advice is simple: write about what you love. Any time I come to a stand still about things to write about I go back to the things I am passionate about. I may not be able to write a very convincing article about why all children should watch professional wrestling (because I don’t believe it is true) but I may be able to write an amazing article about the importance of families eating dinner together at the end of a long day (because I believe it is true and important). Article writing must come from things that matter to you. Reflect upon the things you value and let those give you ideas for writing.

Another simple piece of advice I’ll give about writing articles is to read. That’s right: read. Every single good writer I know is a consistent reader. Why? Because we can learn from reading the work of other writers. It is one of the most valuable things any writer can do. Reading keeps us involved in language and even fuels new ideas for article writing. So when you’re stuck just pick up a magazine and read an article or two. Don’t be afraid of copying. The more you read the less chance you have of copying something you’ve read.

It is important to think about your audience before you begin writing an article of any kind. It is always wise as a writer to try to write articles that will somehow connect with your audience and affect their lives. Just as you want to write about things that matter to you, so you should write about things that matter to them. No one will read articles that they could care less about. So look for ways to learn what people care about most. Do surveys or talk to your friends that read articles. Readers are the best source for writers.

Article writing can be fun and exciting. Just take your time, relax, and enjoy it. You will never last long at something you hate.

 

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First Steps To Becoming A Writer

What’s the first step to becoming a writer? You’d think it would be “write”, but it’s not. In speaking to other writers and from what I know of my own journey to becoming a writer, I’ve come to realize that the biggest obstacle for new writers is that they don’t think of themselves as writers. They have trouble developing the belief that they are writers and yet it’s something you have to do. When you haven’t developed that belief, that conviction, it becomes a source of sabotage–you don’t value your work enough to give it the time and the space it needs. How do you come to think of yourself as a writer, especially when you’re not earning a paycheck as a writer? Here are a few tips:

What Happens When You Write?

If you want to be a writer, I’m assuming you feel you have something to say and a strong desire to say it. You may not know how you’re going to say it or in what form (poetry, novel, essay, etc.) but you know something is there. Okay, you pick up your pencil or pen or you sit down to your computer or typewriter. Write something. Whatever you write, just make sure your heart is in it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to be neat. It does have to be expressive.

Next, as painful as it may be, you have to show this writing to someone. It can be a friend, it can be a family member. Then, pay attention to what happens. Did the person reading your work cry, laugh or get angry? If so, you did that! It means you can have an effect with your writing. It’s worth something. You have to keep going!

A teenager recently wrote to me concerned because she’s writing fiction and she’s worried her mother will read it and get upset because she thinks it’s stuff the teenager really did. On the one hand, that is a bummer to have to explain yourself to your mother, but on the other hand–wow, that means the young lady’s work is believeable and effective. That kind of feedback is hard to ignore. It’s powerful motivation to keep you going–if you take the time to notice and honor that it’s happening. I once had a writer say to me, “I don’t know if my stuff is any good. I just know that when people read it, they cry.” I told her you can’t get a message any clearer than that kind of response. Now she just has to listen to it.

Cultivate Silence

If you’re having trouble thinking about what it is you have to say, it may help you to spend some time each day in silence. Some writers pray. Some meditate. The idea is to get used to clearing your brain space and tuning in to your inner voice. You’ll also be more aware of those little scraps of possibility floating around in your head that can later grow into big ideas.

What Do You Want to Write? Experiment!

It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to write about. It may take a long time journaling for you to see what keeps coming up for you. And it may take longer to find the form that fits you best. I went from poetry to essays to long-form letter writing before I settled on fiction. It took me years to do that. It doesn’t mean I won’t do anything else in those genres, but what I’m doing right now just fits. I encourage you to experiment until you find the form that suits your writing best.

Continually Remind Yourself You Are a Writer

As you develop your belief that you’re a writer, it’s helpful to set up reminders that will jog you back to that brain space that you need to be in to write. When you sit down to write it’s easy to get distracted and starting thinking about doing laundry or what’s for dinner. You’ll want to have something either on your desk or on the wall in front of you that reminds you to get back to work and that you are a writer.

It might be your list of values that remind you that writing is a part of who you are. It may be simple words such as CREATE or INSPIRE. Isabel Allende, who writes beautiful, historical novels will sit in her office with photos around her, old photos of people who essentially represent her characters so she’s surrounded by them. That puts her back into the brain space of her book because she is sitting in their world; these people are all around her.

What world do you need to be in? The journey you take to get there will be one of many you’ll take as a writer. I hope these ideas will help you take those first steps. What you write–and where you go from here–is entirely up to you. Bon Voyage.

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I Can Write a Book

Since every literate person can write, most people think they can be writers. Interestingly enough, we all can speak quite well, but few of us would deem ourselves ‘speakers.’ However, this prevalent belief encourages beginners to say the oddest things that make professional writers want to cringe (or preferably strangle them with a thin wire). If you find yourself saying the following, please stop:

1. “I can write a book in a weekend.”

I’m certain you can mutilate a couple hundred pages with words; however, that doesn’t mean that anyone will want to read them. Yes, I know there are prolific writers who can write a book in two weeks (Voltaire supposedly wrote Candide in three days). Usually they are professionals who have mastered a style and understand the craft of writing. Have you?

2. “I can write those ‘trashy’ books and make tons of money.”

Bwahaha! I love this one.

Many new writers see a 200-page romance or mystery and scoff. These things are so easy, they tell themselves. I can write this in a day. I doubt it, but maybe you can. If you do, will anyone pay you to read it? That is the difference. Those who sell in these genres usually have a passion for the craft that translates onto the page. Hate romance? Think mysteries are ridiculous? Believe sci-fi is for loonies? Then don’t write it, editors and especially readers can tell.

3. “If this crap gets published, I bet I could get a contract in six months.”

Define crap. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Don’t be arrogant and think the world should concede to your every taste (that’s what critics are for). Every writer is not meant for every reader. Just because you don’t like a book doesn’t mean it’s not good. It’s just not good for you. I don’t like okra; however, that doesn’t mean I need to start an anti-okra campaign. Diversity is what makes life interesting.

Okay, okay you’re not talking about taste. You’re talking about horrible, poorly written books. Yes, I know there are some truly bad books out there. Here’s the hard truth. Some bad books (poor grammar, poor structure and poor execution of a plot simpler than a fairy tale) get published. I have plenty of dents in my wall from an effective toss. However, these books are probably ‘placement’ books to fill a hole in a publishing list. Usually, these books sink and their authors are rarely heard from again.

Unfortunately, the existence of these books convinces people that getting their book published should be a breeze. Sure, and every person with a dream to sing will become the next International Idol. Is it fair? No. Do they care? No.

4. “I can write better than that.”

If you can, shut up and write. Nobody wants to hear about it. It’s as annoying as listening to someone explain what they would do if they ruled the world—well you don’t. Next!

5. “I’d write, if I had more time.”

You’ll never get more time; steal it. That’s what the rest of us do.

6. “I have the perfect book already written in my head.”

Sure, and I have the secrets to the universe taped to the bottom of my shoe. People who say this remind me of the naked emperor walking down the street trying to convince his kingdom that he’s clothed. You’re fooling no one except yourself and you look ridiculous.

Writing is work. Writers make it look effortless because that’s our job (imagine the disappointment you would feel seeing a dancer straining to leap off the ground).

I encourage anyone with a desire and passion to write fiction to do so. Write with meaning; write with truth and skill. Write because you must, not as a path to riches and stardom. It may come; it may not.

The real writers (beginner and pro) don’t talk about it; they do it. Be one of those.