Art by Chris Chen
No one thinks I’m a writer but me. I spend so much time in front of a computer or with my nose in a book, I can’t understand how I could be confused as being anything else. Well then, why isn’t my name on anyone’s “bestsellers” list? Why aren’t the royalty checks rolling in on the regular? I imagine I’m not the only aspiring author who has felt this way at one time or another. But then again, there’s a solid chance I am.
When you’re starting out, writing can be an unfulfilling, tiresome grind. But if you commit to it and feverishly work to develop your chosen craft, hopefully the praise and paychecks will not be far behind.
But what about those who haven’t chosen this beautifully demoralizing vocation? Anyone who has ever told another person, “Yeah, I’m a writer,” has probably heard the unenthusiastic response, “Ugh, I hate writing, I’m just not any good at it.” Well, anyone who only writes when they absolutely have to, because they hate it, cannot be surprised if they continue to hate it, and most likely be lousy at it, forever. Remember, writing is like any other skill; it must be practiced to be perfected.
It works like this: I can’t make fondue, but if I spent as much time melting cheeses and mixing them together as I do hammering away on a keyboard, I’d be quite the queso connoisseur. Of course, while any discipline has its outliers, it’s unrealistic to think everyone can be an expert right from the get-go. But if every time you step up to the melting pot or sit down at your desk, you think, “Ahhh I hate this,” you’ll never know if you have any secret literary skills — or queso competence.
Also, when it comes down to it, writing is just like any other art form; it starts with inspiration, no matter how small. Every beautiful painting or sophisticated sculpture started with an image in the artist’s brain. And this image could have come from anywhere — something they saw or smelled, or something they heard or felt. Writing is the same way. You take a simple idea, a word or phrase or comical limerick, and turn it into a tangible piece of literature that can be shared and enjoyed by all — or in my case, tolerated by few and ignored by most.
For those of you who might actually want to improve your skills, here’s a few things you can do:
1) Go to the Pepperdine Writing Center, whose goal is “not to ‘correct’ your writing, but to help you become a better writer.” Sounds pretty good to me, maybe check it out before that Junior Writing Portfolio creeps up on you.
2) Read the book “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser; not only is it a fantastic “how-to” book about writing, it is a great read with some powerful life lessons as well.
3) Start a blog (or a journal for you overachievers who still use pens and paper). I was once told by an author who I am a fan of that blogging is a great way to amplify your efforts. It can help you accomplish whatever it is you’re trying to do faster, cheaper and easier. And you’ll also get in some quality practice.
To the non-writers, I’m sure that all sounds terrible. Believe me though, I get it; writing can be arduous and thankless for those who love it — why would anyone else want to do it? I haven’t looked into a microscope since the eighth grade — science isn’t my thing, and maybe writing isn’t yours. But no one’s going to be asking me to dissect a reptile or peer into a petri dish anytime soon. Can you say the same about writing a term paper? So, if you want to expand your skills as a writer or possibly learn to enjoy writing, you have to write, write a lot, write now, like, right now.
Follow Alec McPike on Twitter: @alecmcpike