Writers write

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.

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§ 7 Responses to Writers write

  • nanuschka says:

    I read a quote yesterday which said: “You can fix anything except a blank page”. I think we all are our own worst critics and the cliche “practice makes perfect” rings true especially in writing. The more we write, the more inspiration we find. The secret is starting, as you said. What a wonderful piece!

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  • estatefraud says:

    I liked your blog and i also am impressed by someone who can even think of writing in their thrid language.
    I have seen many refernces to the writers inner critic and it strikes me that this is something that is incapacitating to many writers but the adage’ is better to write than have a blank page’ .However what is it about the act of writing that makes this, seems like universal, inner critic so alive? Is it because writers tend to write about it and others who have challenging tasks to do don’t write about it but use some other means to address it? Could it be that writers,because it is also a personal exposure[to an extent] fear to get it down on the page?Are writers more self critical than others or is it an achilles heel of creative people,artists perhaps? Coould it be that we do all have something to say and then doubt it or perhaps we really just imagine that we have somethinmg worth saying!

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    • Hi, Anne. I can’t speak for other writers, of course, but I think for me, the act of writing is an intensely personal thing (when I’m writing for me, for my own creative purposes, that is) and so it often feels like I’m baring my soul to the world. That often leave me feeling exposed, naked, vulnerable. Conversely, in my day to day job as a journalist, I’m seldom offended by people wanting to change something in my writing. So it’s an interesting dichotomy. I think we all have inner critics, and some are louder than others; I’m not sure why. Human beings are complex creatures. I only know that putting in the work somehow does the trick, whether what you write is good the first time, or needs extensive rewriting.

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  • estatefraud says:

    I see that my name has come up as Estate Fraud.This was a blog i tried to start a few years ago and then could no longer find it! not too good with some technical things.I presume that the blog site or whatever it is must connect me to it when i cant even connect to it myself.Must try again. however my name is Anne

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  • Love your comment, Nanushka – “You can fix anything except a blank page”.

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