Monday, November 27, 2017

☸️ The Easiest Way to Become a Better Writer

Zak Slayback – Medium:

Here are two quick ways you can get started writing:

A) Write a blog post responding to this post. Tweet it at me @zslayback. I’ll take a look and RT it if I think it’s interesting.

B) Go to Sign up. Choose some topics you know something about. Write short answers about these. You can then republish these answers as blog posts.

Zak’s article was exactly what I needed to read today. His first option echoes advice I received from close friends, who flattered me with compliments about my writing. If you want to improve your writing, they said, write more. This, then, is writing more.

I’ve wanted to reach a larger audience for a while, posting articles to my eight-year old blog, Bazinga Journal, about anything I found interesting. Much of it assumed the form of a link-blog, where I’d quote an excerpt from something I’d read and add a comment, or a longer opinion. If the writing was mostly original content, I’d preface the title with a symbol unique to my blog. That’s what the ☸️ is all about, here.

The 2016 election result gives me plenty of news fodder, at the peril of pigeon-holing the blog into the politics corner. There’s a wider variety of subject matter buried in there, but it tends to get sandwiched between political comment and opinion. What’s worse, everyone and his brother has an opinion on that subject, with those voices becoming louder every day. I believe what I write, but it’s not going to catch anyone’s attention.

Kelly, my wife, noted that I have a couple of passions that make for interesting reading – craft-brewed beer, and Bodhi, our Labrador Retriever puppy – and suggested I start a new, second blog aimed squarely at those subjects. Something flickered in the back of my mind. A 2009 talk at SXSW given by John Gruber and Merlin Mann advocated that good writing is a combination of “obsession times voice.”

Obsession means narrowing your subject matter to what truly moves you. As Merlin described it, if you’re a Star Wars fan, don’t write about Star Wars. Find something about Star Wars that fascinates you – not, say, the Jawas, but that one Jawa, standing over there in that scene – and write about it. Put more succinctly, focus on what you love. I love the world of craft beer, and I sure love my Lab pup.

Voice goes to the central theme of Zak’s Medium article. Write more. The more I write and edit my writing, the more flaws I find in my style, the more I correct and refine my prose, the better I feel about the result. Over time I’ve developed a distinct style, or voice. Anyone who regularly reads me could pick my articles from an anonymous pile, because I keep a consistent voice.

Right now that group is mainly my wife (I think), but I have hope for growth.

Another assertion Zak makes is dead-on: don’t worry about putting your words out in public. The feeling of being an imposter in the world of writing is akin to how you might feel the first day you show up at a local gym; everyone is looking at you, condemning you, silently wondering what the hell you’re doing there. The truth is that no-one’s looking at you, because you’re not all that interesting at first, and frankly everyone present is doing the same thing, lost in their own little world.

Write a lot, edit a lot, publish everything, and eventually you’ll become interesting enough that people take notice. Persistence pays off.

I took my wife’s advice, building the structure of my second blog in an afternoon. It reflects my taste, which runs toward simplicity of design, and my obsessions, which are good beer and my pal, Bodhi. Bodhi and Beer was born.

There are but ten articles published so far, but I’ve been pleased and flattered that the head brewer at my local craft brewery liked the article Wort Hog, Rye Not? well enough to re-post it on the brewery’s Facebook page. It got over three-hundred page views in a couple of days. My first publication!

On my next visit to the brewery two of the owners complemented me on the piece, one thanking me for the kind words. It helps that what I wrote is demonstrably true, so this was no puff-piece. Jeremy, who published the article on the brewery’s page, also thanked me for the kind words. That felt pretty good.

How did this happen? I wrote about something I loved, making the process of brewing beer simple before going into greater detail, and kept the prose as spare as I could manage. With another year or two of writing practice I might be able to produce the same article in a more compact form, but for where I am in my writing now, I’m satisfied. I can read the piece aloud without cringing.

That’s a tip I’d share with you: once your editing is done, read the piece aloud. The rhythm of words in your head often differs from the rhythm they make, spoken. The best writing sounds as good as it reads.

Most of all, write more. Try to write something every day, even if it’s a couple of paragraphs commenting on a news item. Expression needs practice.

(And use hashtags and social media, because people use them when searching for content. You want to be found!)

#writing #practice improveYourWriting #ZakSlayback #writingChallenge #BodhiAndBeer #BazingaJournal