Musings on Writing (And Tips)
Updated: Apr 30, 2020
There seems to be a standard of quality people feel they have to meet when writing, or making art of any kind. Let it be said, to an extent, such standards do and should exist. There is art, and there is fine arts. There are books, and there is literature. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, and art may be deemed “subjective,” but distinctions between quality – which does not merely have to rely on quality alone, but on possibly accompanied historical, political, cultural contexts, worth, caliber, significance – do exist. It may be a bold statement to make, but when it comes to art, I will never be keen on celebrating mediocrity.
And yet, art does not always have to be about proving something. Especially when it comes from a need to simply create, to express, to convey what is happening within. I think that’s where people get stuck when it comes to making art. You do not have to prove anything to anyone, nor to yourself. If you want to make, make. Use your hands as they were meant to. None of what you make has to even be seen by anyone but you – and there is great power in choosing that. It is your own secret. Use it as such. Believe it when I say the great masters of art that once were (and using the term once were brings on a whole other issue on what art has come to, but that’s for another time), were indeed trying to prove something. Whether political, social, historical, cultural, the greatest art we know was always a response to something else, which was a response to something that came before. What a heavy responsibility to have!
But what I mean to say by that is this: the essence in the differences is intention. There is art one makes to change the world or themselves. There is art one makes out of vengeance or love. There is art one makes simply because one wants to, without any consequences: this is the purest one, and the one you should strive for when you feel what you make is not good enough.
When it comes to writing, there are those who tell me they want to write, but they simply don’t know when to start. And I mean that quite literally. What part of the day could be best? Moreover, they tend to claim they cannot write at all. In other words, that they are not good at it.
This, more often than not, is untrue. In many writings that people have sent me over the years, whether it be friends or acquaintances or strangers, I have always found something I enjoyed in their writing. It may be a scene, a character, or only a single phrase - there is always something interesting that catches my eye. Even the writing I do not like evokes something in me. If it bothers me, disturbs me, or the style isn’t my taste, I want to understand why, to decipher the code, to break apart my own dislike. The feelings a piece of writing makes you feel – whether it is your own, or of another – does not immediately have to be enjoyable. That magic that a piece of text can have does not always have to be there instantly.
What I mean by that, is you can disagree with a piece of writing, whether or not it is your own. You can dislike it. You can critique it. It’s actually quite a fun exercise for me. When reading another’s work, I see every scene as a math equation. Did they solve them properly? And if they did not, what is the proper way, according to you? Did they have the proper solution, but a different method in getting there? How? Would you use it, why or why not? Such methods can be applied as easily to your own writing, but keep this in mind: not everything you write has to be a “piece.” A piece of “work.” It does not have to change the world. It can simply come forth from the need to create. It can simply be a documentation of your thoughts. And your thoughts are your thoughts: let them be. Do not force them.
These are some useful tips for writing I’ve gathered over the brief years I’ve been alive:
1. Try writing early in the morning. If you ever find yourself waking up before your alarm clock, or perhaps you’re an early bird like me, encourage yourself to write down whatever it is your mind is occupied with. Whether it be;
a. the dreams you dreamed that night – what made them different than the others? Were there patterns?
b. whatever might have kept you up instead – what worries you? Can you illustrate it with words?
c. the story/poem/anything you may be working on. In the half-dream state you’re still in, you might find your mind opening corridors it may not have access to when fully awake. Other visions or ideas that you may not come to while being a functioning “person.”
2. When writing a journal, try describing what you’re going through without exclusively defining it. Illustrate it as though it is a sight, a feeling, a smell, a touch, rather than documenting it like a report. I always find myself turning my journal entries into letters, not necessarily to a person, but to whatever it is that is troubling me. Not as some way of healing, but simply because it excites me finding different ways to communicate the same thing. I could write, “I had a bad day,” and be done with it. Or I could write, “what is it, dear heart, that makes your strings pull so violently with every waking moment of this day?” and pretend I’m in a heart wrenching Shakespeare tale.
3. Carry a notebook around with you. It may seem like a cliché, but part of writing is practicing it being present in your life, and the best way to train yourself is having something on you to write in wherever you go. I often find myself craving to write something down or draw something I see the day I happen to forget my notebook. Just knowing it’s there with you will remind you to write during the moments you have time to spare.
4. Another cliché, and one I tend to not advocate for: write about what you know. It’s one of the most popular sayings – and teachings – for writers, and it’s been taught to me countless times. It holds an unmistakable truth, but it’s one I’ve never known how to do, so I will not preach it blindly. You see, my writings all come from the deepest inner corners of my own world, where no person I know or have ever known exists, where nothing of this world has ever been. It’s mine and mine alone, and it’s what I know best. It’s my dearest little secret. The characters in them I love more than most people, the characters in them I know better than I know most people. And that’s not really a good thing. Writing about this world, that is, planet earth, with all its customs and societal norms, with its people and their habits, is a hundred times more difficult. Having my own world means I have my own rules. In the world of planet earth, I have to follow the rules of others, and know them (which I hardly do), including the unspoken rules of society. And such things have to be handled flawlessly or the story is entirely unconvincing. Writing about “normal” things is much more of a challenge, and so I encourage you to do so simply because it will help you create your own style, your own voice, your own world later on.
5. Try different writing media. I write my long stories on my laptop, simply because it spares me all the trouble of what writing an entire story with a pen would bring (although writing a story with a pen is absolutely more romantic and dramatic and I wish I had that devotion). However, I tend to write my poetry with pen. For writing poetry I seem to use an entirely different part of my brain, where nothing makes sense, and I somehow have to put the visions I see into words in a way prose simply cannot do. As such, staring at a blank, bright, digital screen unnerves me and takes me away from that part of my brain. And since my poems are relatively short, I don’t have to worry much about the convenience of digital editing. Things such as journal entries are all done with pen as well, and I try to always write with real ink pens. The kind that make me smudge the paper (lefthanded sorrows) but never stop because I love how the fresh ink looks.
6. And lastly: don’t write before you sleep! The thought of it may add to the whole “dark brooding writer typing up stories deep into the night” persona that you might be going for, but such lovely concepts don’t really include what happens after. Which is that you probably won’t be able to fall asleep for a few hours. And you might have nightmares. Sorry. Writing requires such intense concentration (I genuinely see it as a form of voluntary delusions) that your brain will be buzzing long after, and it will be hard to turn it off. If you’re writing about serious things, scary things, unsettling things, be prepared those scenes might continue on in the dreams you will have that night.
I hope these tips may help you or that they at least gave you some thought-provoking ideas. Bye!