Monthly Archives: February 2012

Four Writing Mantras: How to Become a Great Writer.

I'm on a writing retreat with my younger sister and family this weekend, and we're editing, writing, and working on several projects (from crochet to design to catching up on other unfinished ideas). We were sitting by the ocean, bantering about writing and editing.  She shared four "writing mantras," from one of her favorite teachers, as rules to remember to become a great writer. I loved them and I thought I'd share. More on the writing retreat soon!

If you can't read well, you can't write well. The most important thing you can do to be a better writer is read. I recently listed a years' worth of my favorite books, and I'm already embedded in at least half a dozen new novels, historical accounts, and business books this month alone. Immersing yourself in good quality writing is the best teacher.

There is no good writing, there is only good re-writing. When I work with new writers, I often tell them to expect the first page to be "full of shit, with a few gems hidden in there somewhere." It takes time, patience, and a whole bunch of red-lines to work with words on a page. It also takes the courage to put words down on paper without initial judgment or concern. Just do it, and let yourself write. Don't let your judgment of yourself preclude you from starting in the first place. Trust that it can continue to get better with editing, time, and practice.

The goal is not complex words and simple ideas, but simple words and complex ideas. If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough. Writing does not need to be complicated, pretentious, confusing, or full of jargon. To me, writing is a process for building understanding for yourself, and others. For myself, I often copy notes, explore ideas, and re-work words on a page just to tango with an idea until it makes sense in my mind. If I can't explain it to people, then I'm not well-versed enough in the concept. Writing is a tool for communication (externally) as well as understanding (internally). Often, much of my writing is just about my words, rants, ideas, and explorations--before any of it gets shared with anyone else.

What you take out is just as important as what you leave in. Getting to a clear, simple essay or point is not straightforward. Often, I have to write 5-6 pages just to get to a distillation of one great paragraph. It's part of the process.

What are your writing dreams and goals? Are you upping the ante with your writing? I've recently received multiple messages from people who want to be writing more. My advice? Do it, and do it as often as possible. A little is a lot. Everyone can write 1000 words a day (hat tip to Chris Guillebeau for that advice), and in the process, you'll find some good stuff that you can then re-work and share with the world. 

My goal for March: to write 1000 words every day, a short story or ramblings, first thing in the morning. 

A Rant on Ridiculous Words and Phrases

Perhaps it was my foray into Twitter and Google+ this past year, but I’ve found myself simultaneously overjoyed by the opportunities and connections, and also, now, a bit weary of repetition. Some of the same themes, ideas, and mantras crept up time and again, each time undermining their efficacy and usefulness. In particular, given theContinue Reading

I is for Integrity.

I was asked to write about Integrity as part of Molly Mahar’s “Blog Crawl” on self-love this February. Today’s post is part of Stratejoy’s The ABC’s of Self Love Blog Crawl + Treasure Hunt. Molly’s series is part of her bigger program called The Fierce Love Course. I had a chance to meet with Molly inContinue Reading

Swimming Taught Me This: Early Morning Reflections

I’ve taken a four-month break from swimming; launching a project, traveling, and other interests have put my swimming adventures on the back burner recently. For several reasons: A) I’m not super-human, and therefore, B) I can’t do everything at once. Yet I’m getting the itch, again, and feeling the need to be swimming. The glorious (albeit strange)Continue Reading

Are You Learning?

  I put together a series of a dozen or so challenges and questions that I ask myself and post up in my office and my home workspace. To see the rest in the series, check out the Post-It category.

Homemade Lemonade

… When life gives you lemons … At home, we have a lemon, lime, and an orange tree in our backyard, pressed up against the fence. During the big storms, my mom ties the trunk of the tree to the fence to prevent the weight of the fruit from falling the tree. The lemon treeContinue Reading

When The Going Gets Tough…

Hiking through urban Taipei, Taiwan as part of a landscape project. You’re probably heard the phrase before: When the going gets tough … the tough get going.  Sometimes, when the going gets tough, I want to head home, curl up in my favorite blankets, turn the lights down low and eat cookies and watch TV.Continue Reading

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