Improve Your Writing Skills
TOOLS FOR WRITING
THE WRITER'S TOY CHEST: DON'T WORK AT WRITING, PLAY WITH IT
Play is an altered state of consciousness in which we’re relaxed. Receptive. New ideas engulf us. Immersed in process with no attachment to outcome, in play we are open to what’s in front of us in the moment. We are willing to risk more, to view experiments as conduits for information, not wholesale failures. The nature of play is organic discovery because we allow emerging ideas, images and feelings to organically shape themselves.
The inherent structure of language challenges play’s free-from nature. In The Writer’s Toy Chest, 67 multi-sensory, multi-modality toys disintegrate that structure to heighten the dynamics of play.
If you find yourself getting anxious about or taking your writing too seriously, dig into The Writer’s Toy Chest to keep it light:
• Loosen up.
• Trigger insights and new perspectives.
• Cultivate states of wonder and possibility.
COOKIN’ THE BOOKS: SIZZLING RECIPES TO SPICE UP YOUR WRITING
LET IT BAKE
After combining ingredients for a casserole – you place the mixture into a pan and then the oven. Do you sit with nose pressed to the oven door, watching it bake? Do you wonder every five minutes, “Is that casserole ready?” Of course you don’t. You move onto next steps: prepare side dishes, salads, wash bowls and utensils and wipe down the kitchen counter. When baking a casserole you let the oven do what it does while you do what you need to.
It is precisely the same with writing, which requires the dormant yet productive alchemy akin to baking. “Bake time” – objectivity and maturation – allows the subconscious to take over, to do its work of melding disparate ingredients into cohesion while you get on with the business of living. Also, it maximizes your ability to refine each version of your ideas over time without taxing the limits of the brain’s conscious resources. Let space and time work for you rather than attempt to whip every sentence into poetry when first you write it.
Simmer ideas. Like homemade soups and stews, ideas must simmer to enhance body and flavor. Time enriches character not revealed in those first, early tastes.
Steep in story. Regularly immerse in storytelling arts: read novels, watch movies, listen keenly to song lyrics, attend stage plays and live stand-up comedy. For favorites, research idea origin, development and production.
Pepper the subconscious. It is there that the material of creation accumulates: disparate fragments which blend then bubble from the archives to awareness as fresh ideas. We enhance that organic alchemy by cultivating inspiration:
• Gravitate toward experiences that light us up.
• Create openings for what wishes to emerge.
• Increase our comfort with creative chaos.
• Let go of expectation, and instead, respond to the moment.
PROLIFIC WITHOUT PAIN: CHILLAX INTO YOUR BEST WRITING EVER
The act of writing doesn’t stall our getting to the page. It is our beliefs about what we’ll experience when we write that keep us from it. The space between our ideas about writing and doing it can feel like standing at canyon’s edge. In reality, it’s more like stepping over a crack in the sidewalk. We won’t know that, though, until we practice closing the gap between the act and our perception of it.
The conditions and environment we need to write with ease evolve through experimentation and practice. Cultivate these conditions and discover that once actively involved in writing we are so present with excitement and curiosity, there’s no space for rumination.
Prolific without Pain shows you how to journey from:
• being overwhelmed by ideas to appreciating the chaos inherent in executing them.
• demanding ideas to making it inviting for them to surface.
• embracing other opinions to trusting your voice.
• success defined as a one-time event to actions you take every day.
• dread to excitement.
• drudgery to momentum.
• Writing as task to a way of being.
C’mon. It’s time.
HAVE A BALL WRITING
YOUR FIRST NOVEL
Mmm, Mmm Good
Humans are more inclined to engage an activity when it’s fun. If you want to write a novel without gnashing your teeth, chewing the inside of your jaw and wondering “am I good enough?” make it fun.
Practice shifting the energy of writing – from pressuring yourself to using pleasure, wonder, discovery and adventure as entryways to story. Specifically, borrow energy from activities you enjoy and use it to transform your relationship to the page.
If you approach writing the way you watch movies, dine with friends or road trip to a national park, writing becomes adventure. You’ll anticipate the journey and open yourself to discoveries at every turn. When you’re out and about, you’ll think, “I can’t wait to get back to my novel!” instead of “Ugh, it’s been two days and I’ve not written a word.”
The Have a Ball approach to writing your first novel is simple:
• Embrace your novel like a child at play.
• Invite ideas to flock around you by creating an environment for them to flourish.
Go ahead, have fun!
FORMULA 5: BRAIN SCIENCE YOUR WAY TO BATCH SYSTEM WRITING
YOU'LL SEE IT WHEN YOU BELIEVE IT
Formula 5 shows you how to use documented neuroscience research to wire your brain to write faster and better than you can imagine.
The ABCs of Batch Technology
You can batch process any task. Office work, for example. Rather than send an email, then make a phone call, then research a factoid, then post to your social media accounts, instead, batch all of these activities and accomplish them in one go:
• Copy documents for different projects at the same time.
• Write and send all your emails in a block of time – 15, 30 or 60 minutes – rather than have them distract your attention throughout the day.
• Use the same batch strategy to develop and queue social media posts or conduct research – for a business proposal, intel you promised a friend, or an idea for your research paper.
Formula 5 applies the same batch technology to writing productivity: books, sales proposals, research papers, business plans, correspondence or serial blogs.
Ideas Are Everywhere
Generating new ideas is fun, inspiring and great brain calisthenics. Productivity, though, is the ability to execute on those ideas quickly, efficiently and with sustainable glee. The rate at which ideas flow will always be swifter than the rate at which we bring them into being. Still, by working with our brain’s natural tendency to sort and batch ideas, we can write faster and better than we imagine.
The core challenge that led to my discovery and development of Formula 5 was how to efficiently execute on multiple ideas while having fun. I wondered, “How do I marry the structure inherent to language with the chaos organic to play?” After years of experimentation, Formula 5 Batch Writing is my answer.
PURSE PROMPTS: GETTING CARRIED AWAY WITH WRITING
Two years and two moves ago, I used my many duffel bags as mobile storage. How surprised was I when I opened them. They revealed ephemera from nearly eight years and one state prior: plane ticket receipts. Playbills. Concert ticket stubs. Restaurant take-out menus. Each bag and its contents told a story. This fascinated me.
Looking back over segments of my life through accumulated memories from inside a purse, I could see how plotted paths turned into surprising outcomes. Musing at life’s twists and turns, I thought, what a rich writing prompt.
Now it’s your turn. Excavate your purses and write about what you discover:
• Reflect on purse’s role in your life journey.
• Generate and nourish ideas.
• Inject playfulness into the writing process.
• Practice detachment – ease separation from material possessions before releasing them.
• Instill confidence – write about any topic, anytime, anywhere with no fret.
• Listen to and trust your voice on the page – let go of what you think you should say; instead, say what you must.
At the end of each day, when you empty your purse, knapsack, book bag, computer satchel or beach tote, collect your findings for an adventure on the page. Let Purse Prompts help you Get Carried Away with Writing.
NO TEARS FOR FRANKIE: A MEMOIR ON THE LIFE OF AN ESSAY
Eighteen years have passed since my essay No Tears for Frankie was first published in The New York Times Magazine; 30-plus years since I wrote it. This time span, reprint requests, impact on young people and that Frankie continues to influence my writing, struck me as the essay having a life of its own. Here began my exploration.
The mind can wrap around process for many of the arts – a dancer’s choreography and rehearsal, pianists and vocalists practicing scales, actors in a script reading. For each of these disciplines we have a perception of prerequisite training. Imagine, though, a reality TV show about writing, in the style of American Idol or The Voice. What would we see? Writers staring into computer screens or pausing in the shower mid-suds to psychically corral a flurrying idea; laying quiet and still in the morning bed, mining the gossamer state between sleep and wakefulness to capture wisps of dreams, specks of dialogue, flickering scenes.
Through blogs, Web sites, video uploads and social media, writers of all stripes are sharing their process. For new writers and those grappling with their journey, I add my voice to that community. No Tears for Frankie:
• does for the reader who many mentioned in this book, have done for me – demystify writing process.
• through the lens of one essay, imparts how the genesis and trajectory of a final piece of writing is rarely ordered or linear.
• shows how writing and publishing are separate, sometimes contradictory acts.
Most important: No Tears for Frankie reveals the inevitability of writing having a life of its own.