Writer, in progress

So the old saying goes ‘Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration’.

Well what about writing? To me, it should be 50-50; half inspiration, half hard work. I’m not undermining the fact that writing is hard work. I’m just trying to say that inspiration doesn’t just drop from the sky, and that if we are truly inspired, it shouldn’t take a whole lot of striving to write from that place of abundance.

Some days, I feel I sweat at the computer desk more than I should. At those times, I can press on and keep going, but no matter how hard I squeeze, the words at most come out at dripping speed. So I usually get up and go for a walk, spend time with the kiddos, or just get some household chore done.

And then an idea strikes me. And I try to drop whatever I was distracting myself with, and write. (That’s where the phone or iPad usually comes in handy, as with a trusty notebook.)

But where do the ideas come from?

From where do words surface and bubble up into full form?

I like to think that it comes from above. By that, I mean from our creator God.

Then it comes from life itself. From personal experiences and events that combine to form an explosive mix of adrenaline, emotion, and a desire to spread the word. Something, some thought, someone, somewhere has to trigger that writer’s response in us. (Just as this post was triggered by a sudden urge to write about writing.)

Sometimes, I find inspiration in the most mundane things. Like a leaf falling from a tree, or an old man sitting with a cigarette in hand, or something innocent my little girl said.

But regardless of where you find your inspiration, I thought I’d share a little of what I know about writing:

Write from passion – Just as “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks“, so it is with writing. If it’s something that you feel strongly for / against, your writing will reflect that enthusiasm and passion, and that will help you connect with your readers.

Write what you know – Whatever life experiences you’ve been through, you are the expert of that experience. No one else has gone through the exact same experience as you and came through it the exact same way. So long as you have drawn one or two lessons from it, share about them, and let your readers take home something.

Find your anchor – Sometimes I use pictures as an anchor to my story, like the one about the grandies. It really helps to add focus. Try asking yourself that gazillion dollar question “what do you really want to say?“, and just wait for the lights to bling on. Oh yes, a great title helps too.

Draw on experts – We can never know it all. Read up on the topic you’ve chosen to write about. Google it, read what others have said, draw from experts’ opinions or books. I sometimes link to other blog posts, but only if the entire post is relevant and if it serves to add greater dimension to the topic.

Big picture, small details– Let’s say you are reviewing a play. By all means share the colourful moments with us, but remember to zoom out and give us the bird’s eye view. It will help us see why you chose to write about it, and what it means to you.

Be ruthless – Anything that doesn’t add value to your story? Cut it. In general, short paragraphs work better than long ones. Same with sentences. And yes, edit your work. I never publish a draft that I haven’t re-looked at and edited; there are always typos and grammatical errors to be weeded out, and there’s always a word that can be replaced with something better.

Keep writing, keep improving – One of the reasons why I started a blog was to improve my writing. This brings me back to the title I chose, ‘Writer, in progress’ – because I’m always learning, always wanting to improve. Let’s all try to be sponges, so that we can absorb the good stuff from the many good writers/bloggers out there. And yes, may God grant us more inspiration too!

Do you have any writing tips to share?

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