It’s Right to Write
Dear Frustrated Writers,
If you are reading this then you are considering asking for help with your writing assignment. I know it’s hard to ask for help, and we all have been there. Here’s a few things I do; a few you definitely shouldn’t do; and a few words of wisdom from Stephen King which might help you on your journey.
Writing is a process of the imagination. An extension of ones consciousness and ability to articulate their feelings. The better you are at processing all that scattered information in your brain, the better you will become at the art of persuasion. Persuasion is key. Defining your argument, even in creative writing stories; You are trying to persuade your audience and transport their imagination to a beautifully crafted world that you have made. Including details enhances your reality, and sensibilities that can make a stronger argument. Reading other people’s work is the best way you can get your imagination kicked into gear. The more you read, the more you are going to write. Write about everything. Write about what you read, about what you dream t last night, about something that happened that was interesting that day, or something you wished had happened; Write about how you were walking back to your apartment and how that guy in the brown jacket and red baseball cap was following you. You looked back, and he stopped dead in his tracks, head down with his hands in his pockets, never moving, and fell through the Earth into another dimension in a swirling vortex of black hideous terror. Anything. It’s right to write.
My process of writing is probably like a lot of yours. Sometimes I have to rush to get that first draft done, leaving little time to get a polished draft completed to hand in. But I have a harsh schedule; Before I can begin homework, I have to tend to my other responsibilities such as taking care of my 5-year-old son, taking and administering jiu-jitsu classes, and physical therapy. That leaves me about 2 hours every night to get 5 classes worth of homework done. But when I can, and do, get the time to write, I always take advantage. I have a writing journal that I like to write short stories in, whenever an idea pops in my head. Sometimes it’s just a few sentences of an idea that comes to me. Other times, it develops into a ten page essay. My environment is definitely not one that a lot of writers would thrive in or want to emulate. I always have a movie or T.V. Show playing, with my headphones on, in a separate window when I’m writing on the computer. My wife is usually in the room with me and she is usually listening to her own show as well, or music, and we also are talking about our day, etc. The lights are off, and since I can’t feel anything but pain in my right leg, I’m usually laying down and full of narcotics. Don’t do what I do. It’s in the book, The Bedford Guide, telling you to have a calm, quiet and welcoming environment. Especially if you are having trouble getting started writing, just shutting everything off and sitting with that blank page in front of you, eventually something will click and you will get that first sentence out. That’s all you need. That spark of imagination, that “aha!” moment.
When you begin writing, finally getting that blank page covered with some words, write or yourself first. This is a great tip that comes from Stephen King, from his great book On Writing. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story. Your stuff starts out being just for you, but then it goes out.” (King) Worry about the audience later. Make sure what you are writing is interesting to you and is something, in a story, that you would want to be told. After you get going, don’t stop. Do not re-read every sentence and start the editing process while you are trying to finish your draft. This is writing based in fear. Fear that what you are putting on that paper is already not good enough, not good enough for you or for your audience. Forget that, keep going. Confidence is king. If you believe it and convey it with enough passion, your voice will shine through like a beacon in the darkest night, and your audience will eat it up.
“I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing. Dumbo got airborne with the help of a magic feather; you may feel the urge to grasp a passive verb or one of those nasty adverbs for the same reason. Just remember before you do that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him.” (King) Stephen King is right on point, again. The magic is in you, we are just figuring out the best possible way to pull it out and organize it. Everyone has one great novel in them; that’s the saying, right? Well, if you don’t want to write a novel, we can do some kung-fu English division and get, at least, 40 fantastic essays out of you. Depending on assignment length, of course. Speaking of the assignment, especially if it is an analytical essay, always make sure you are conveying in the opening of your paper exactly what your argument is about and why you are making that argument. Analytical essays are not my expertise, so I always read the assignment over multiple times, then go over all facts and data that I want to present first. It’s easier for me to write personal essays and creative fiction pieces, but with some simple steps you can do all of it well.
Write truthfully. Listen, your professor and everyone else who is your audience is going to know when you BS your way through a paper. Know why? Because we’ve all done it, so we know what to look for and what that type of paper looks and reads like. Stick to your own style. It might be a fun exercise to try to emulate Virginia Woolf, but everyone’s writing voice is like a fingerprint. It’s unique and exquisite. Just be honest in your writing, one word at a time. Don’t worry about being right, or wrong, or polite, or obscene. If you’re honest and it’s engaging, this is what matters. To make it engaging, make it quick. Make it snappy, speed up the pace. Remove the filler, or the redundant words you added to hit your word count. If you think it reads a bit boring, just imagine how your audience is going to think of it. Take risks. Don’t be afraid; Kill your darlings.
The last bit of advice I can give you is the best bit of advice I also read from Stephen Kings book as well. “You don’t need writing classes or seminars any more than you need this or any other book on writing. Faulkner learned his trade while working in the Oxford, Mississippi post office. Other writers have learned the basics while serving in the Navy, working in steel mills or doing time in America’s finer crossbar hotels. I learned the most valuable (and commercial) part of my life’s work while washing motel sheets and restaurant tablecloths at the New Franklin Laundry in Bangor. You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.” (King) If you are writing, you are a writer. Reading and writing is all you need. I can’t tell you how to write like you. I can help you organize and I can help you with your structure. I can help you with your word choice and your format. I can help you with your transitions, citations, or finding a great opening line to hook your audience. I can help you figure out a title. I can help you avoid repetition (like this), and I can help make sure your essay flows properly. Hopefully we can work together. Worst case scenario: You’ll get a hell of a story out of it.