April 24, 2013 § 7 Comments
I’ve just been reading a heart-wrenching essay by someone on how she battles with writing. She’s someone who’s moved from an academic role to a communications role, where she’s expected to produce various documents in English – which is her third language – and not unexpectedly, she finds it something of a struggle.
I’m in awe – if I had to produce corporate documents in Xhosa, my third language, I would check myself into the loony bin. That’s a tall order. And yet, her writing isn’t nearly as bad as she thinks it is. Yes, it requires some work, but then most of us could use some help.
Now, I don’t claim to be the perfect writer – there’s no such thing – nor do I claim to know everything there is about writing. But having spent the better part of 20 years writing on an almost daily basis, I do know this:
1. Writing is seldom easy. It really is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Really good writing is to be found in rewriting. And rewriting. And rewriting. And still more rewriting. And if it’s still not the way you want it, rewrite again.
2. Most of the battle is just starting. We allow our inner critic to shout too loudly sometimes – so loudly that we can’t even start for fear of failure and awfulness and not being good enough. But as my writing teacher, Jo-Anne Richards, likes to remind people, that’s why you have a backspace and delete key on your computer (or if you’re old-school, an eraser). So what if you make mistakes or do it badly? You can always rewrite it. And it’s much more difficult to write perfectly the first time than it is to fix something that’s bad. At least if you begin, you have something to work with, a starting point.
3. The more you do it, the easier the nuts and bolts – the actual mechanics of writing – become. I’m talking about the way you use language. The more you write and rewrite the more you will learn to pare things back to their simplest, most elegant form, and to express yourself in your own, unique way. But you have to just get in there and do it. And keep doing it – it will come.
So, if you’ve been wanting to try your hand at writing, my advice is simply this – start. Pick up a pen or open a document on your computer, and write something. It might be wonderful; it might be terrible. But it’s a start. And every writer has to start somewhere.