Meet the Bad Boys of Writing
Everyone knows them and hangs out with them. They are the bad boys of writing. Handsome and seductive fellows, they have weaseled their way into our thinking. They’re conmen really — conmen in the true sense of the word — they play a confidence came.
The bad boys take advantage of us because we wrote so much in school. They mess with our heads because we learned to write on cue. We confused the act of writing with the art and craft of writing. We don’t do that with wearing shoes, or living in a house or driving, but we do that with books and writing. So the bad boys of writing have a field day.
It’s time we showed the bad boys that we can beat them at their game.
Meet Bad Boy 1: Just write and it will be spectacular!
“Just Write” Is Not Spectacular
“just write” is regular. We “just write” shopping lists, emails, notes, and messages, things we want to remember, directions for a friend to get somewhere, maybe even a quick how-to for someone who needs it right away. That’s the writing version of driving to the local store, to a friend’s house, or to our hometown. We already know the way and if we miss by taking a shortcut, it doesn’t really matter much.
The bad boys of writing try to make us think that all writing should be like that.
Spectacular Takes Planning
Ah, but when we want to write something spectacular. A poem for a loved one, a blog post, an ezine article, a newletter or a business report. That’s when the bad boys show up. “Just write and it will be spectacular,” they say.
If we listen to them, we forget that spectacular doesn’t happen by magic.
Spectacular things take planning and patience. Imagine no plan for the Golden Gate bridge, or the Aswan High Dam, or the Taj Mahal. A cycler thinks about his route while he’s still preparing his bike. A hiker determines her path long before the day she’ll hike. A painter visualizes how he will use the canvas before he ever mises his paint. A writer plans what he wants to say before he sets his fingers on the keyboard. Spectacular work just works that way.
That’s why when we’re writing something new that we want to be spectacular, we can’t expect to sit just down to a blank screen and type in a document and think that it will turn out that way. Minds and ideas need time to prewrite, plan, and organize them before they formulate.
Prewriting — Ew!
It doesn’t have to take forever. Just a few minutes to clear your mind and order your ideas will do. Don’t pick prewriting tasks that you don’t like and you won’t have to say “Prewriting — Ew!” Writers choose techniques that work for them: freewriting, mindmaps, brainstorming, word webs, concept charts, bulleted lists, outlines. ideas on cocktail napkins, or a walk around a parking lot with a list of words held in their head.
Any form of prewriting planning gets that bad boy back on his bike and riding into the sunset, because he knows you’re not listening to him by the sound of your fingers clicking away on the keys as you start writing something just to show him that with a little planning you can do spectacular even more than he imagined . . . and that you have no need for him.
Who are the bad boys of writing that you know? Let’s see if we can run them out of town too.
–ME “Liz” Strauss
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