We all know Pablo Picasso for his genius art. He started as an amateur, just like any of us. He cycled through hundreds of trial and error efforts to reach mastery. We may not be a Picasso, or a Shakespeare, but we all can take a few pages out of their lives to replicate a portion of their success.
Popular writing books reveal the tried and tested methods of popular authors. You don’t need to figure out everything on your own. Here are 3 key pieces of advice from some of our favorite books about writing.
1. Awaken the speech of your mind.
Writing is not always about going big, but rather about a humble admission of our thoughts. Writing practice can serve as a gateway to the mind. Natalie Goldberg in her book Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within talks about it at length.
“I don’t think everyone wants to create the great American novel, but we all have a dream of telling our stories-of realizing what we think, feel, and see before we die. Writing is a path to meet ourselves and become intimate,” she writes.
Goldberg encourages writing at least as a habit to express ourselves. By regularly dumping our thoughts on paper or screen, we can awaken the speech of our mind and tap into potential that lays dormant within ourselves.
2. Close the “door” when you write.
If you’re looking for a writer’s bible, On Writing: A memoir of the Craft by Stephen King is the one. It wasn’t easy to settle to one key takeaway from this book—there were just too many good ideas! Should we mention one, it would be this one: “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door opened.”
In a literal sense, it means to close the door on all distractions when you write. Focus is key to a compelling piece. King admits to locking himself up at his writing desk until he inks his thoughts. Figuratively, however, he speaks about battling another demon.
Let’s be honest. Everyone seeks validation in their craft. We want to please the reader, knowing full well that we cannot please everyone. King addresses this by writing the first draft of his craft for himself. He lays himself bare and makes it as raw and personal as he wants it to be. After completing the first draft for himself, he brushes it up for his audience. The key takeaway is to write for yourself first. You are your first audience.
3. Writing shouldn’t sound like writing.
Always remember that the lines you write are read out loud in your reader’s mind. As the story unfolds, the reader’s imagination slowly but steadily brings your story to life. Setting the flow, the rhythm and tone to make it happen is just as important as the craft itself. In Elmore Leonard’s book 10 Rules of Writing, he puts it quite perfectly; “If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.”
Your lines should flow smoothly, without feeling forced or out of place. With your words, you build a rapport with the reader and settle them into a comfortable reading pace. Go ahead and bend the rules on proper usage if necessary. Don’t make readers strain to understand your writing.
4. Thinking is the enemy of creativity.
If you’re going through a writer’s block, this piece of advice from Ray Bradbury might save your career. Bradbury credited much of his success to his commitment. He wrote 1000 words a day since he was a child of 12.
It is easy to assume that Bradbury was superhuman, but in his famous book, Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You, he dismisses this fallacy. “Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. … You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”
Bradbury encourages writers to not let self-doubt and overthinking get in the way of writing. The more you worry and overthink about writing, the less you actually write. The first step is to set the pace of writing. Creativity follows action in due course.
Shafeeka Hafeez grew up escaping into a world of books where she discovered a love for writing and a fascination with trees. When she’s not taking up a new marketing skill, or typing out a blog post, you can find her Googling the best therapy for abandoned cats.