I am sometimes asked for writing guidance. Over the years, I have developed this simple list of ingredients which have served me well. For what they are worth, here they are, along with some “pithy” commentary, which you may ignore as you choose.
I have deliberately chosen to address writing in general, rather than focus on a specific type or form such as academic, business, blogging, or novels. My comments are generic and apply to the basic act of writing something for any purpose. I also am not recommending or even mentioning any of the many fine products available to help with all this.
The first two items might be considered “Gee, Duh”, but I believe that one should always start at the beginning:
WRITING SURFACE …
What used to be called writing paper (white or yellow), but which now comes in wonderful variations, including digital.
The “paper” you use may be lined or unlined, include a soothing background shade, including classic white, and have various textures or surface patterns. Some folks prefer a basic blank page, while others find a pastel shade with lines evocative.
The point is you need a blank surface upon which you will spill your thoughts and visions. Choose wisely and creatively.
WRITING UTENSILS …
Also considered essential. You might choose to write with pens, pencils, markers, crayons, a mouse, or a touch screen. Use whatever comfortably and quickly allows you to put words on that surface.
A word on digital writing … you usually have a choice in what the writing looks like .. use this to spur your creativity, by switching views every once in a while.
With regard to font style choices – our technological tools give us great variety in how our words will look. When you are not constrained by a required format, use font style choices (in moderation and consistency) to make what you say more visually interesting and to emphasize your key entries. It’s not about a lot of variation, but variation that matters to the reader.
ABILITY TO QUICKLY SEARCH THE INTERNET …
… Because even novelists do not just make things ups. Whether the subject is your opinion, a review, a novel, or something else does not matter … whatever is underneath what you write or supports your characters, action, and story, make sure you know what you are writing about.
With continually growing access to the Internet, we have little excuse for not being better-informed, other than our own laziness. Even if you are writing only about yourself and your experiences, you might just want to check your memory … just sayin’.
The best writing includes information you have already verified, just in case someone asks … and someone will ask, trust me.
The Internet holds a great deal of potentially valuable information. You should use your intelligence and critical thinking skills to find the most credible information and avoid the non-credible and ridiculous This is not an idle caution, but a fundamental necessity if you are to be taken seriously.
Learning to judge the objective value of a source of information is the most important single thing you will do, whether for writing or for being an informed citizen.
If you are curious, you will ask better and more questions, seek more information about a greater range of topics, and probably also spot connections and similarities that others will move past without noticing. All of this creates inspiration and content.
If you want to know more about a great many things on a number of levels in different disciplines and areas AND are willing to expend the time and energy to learn well … you are half-way home.
QUESTIONING ATTITUDE …
This relates directly to Curiosity, as noted above. The ability to pose and answer questions on all that stuff you said you were curious about is the driver for creating a well-researched and informative piece of writing, regardless of the type of writing.
Curiosity is a powerful trait for many endeavors, such as leadership and learning, but it shows up particularly well in good writing … the type of writing that makes us want to stay with the topic, to learn more, to care about what is being said.
INCLINATION TO READ …
If you are to research and if you are to write, you must first develop the willingness to read, then read some more, and continue reading until your eyeballs bleed … While writing is the process which drives the results, you must first read the writings of others.
For one thing, as noted above, reading is how you research and create content.
Far more importantly, reading the writings of others is how you learn to appreciate the different styles in which people create images and concepts through their choice of words and the order in which they use them.
Learn how others do it, adopt or adapt that which seems especially valuable, and always look to contining the refining and learning.
Well, that’s my list. In a state of curiosity, I have several questions for you now:
What important things have I left off this list?
What have I misstated or just got wrong?
What do you think is the most valuable entry on this digital page?
Wondering why this particular topic popped into my rather empty head this morning in the Heartland ….