Writing

10 Reasons I Will NEVER Do a List Post

Writing that title was an exercise in masochism

Everything I hate about writing on the internet is summed up in that title. It implies that the article will be a glorified bullet list, one of the words is annoyingly capitalized… all it needs is a GIF and it could be world-class BuzzFeed material. However to fit into a site like that the article would have to be less than 300 words and have a GIF response for every single item on the list. Things I couldn’t bring myself to do even in the name of satire.

Perhaps you can tell already, but I really hate that kind of article and, unfortunately, it is where writing on the internet is headed. And since journalism becomes more digital and editors realize list article with GIFs get views… well you can check out The Washington Post for a sneak peek.

Dear readers, this kind of writing is the epitome of lazy. It’s sole merit is that it is easy to consume and, in a culture that is more or less founded on consumption, that is more than enough. List articles help the bottom line, they bring in easy views, they take less than a minute to read (so the reader can move on to another list article)… all these things are great if your sole goal is subscribers and likes. But it contributes to the slow decline of hobby writing and online journalism.

The internet has so much potential for helping new writers, young and old, find audiences and, perhaps, be discovered. But if these writers don’t hone their skill here, but instead fish for views, their writing ability will deteriorate. Treat your blog or website like a journal, but not as a ‘Tommy pulled my braid yesterday in class’ kind of journal but the kind of journal Robert Falcon Scott wrote – something you would be proud to show someone or, at least, not embarrassed (by the writing quality I mean, it being a journal the content could be embarrassing by definition!). All writing ought to be treated as a chance to improve or to entertain the reader. When you write and email let the goal be to make it memorable, let the reader think ‘this is how people used to write.’

In the past letters were often written with the kind of flair and attention one would dedicate to a public work (which is odd in a way as if you are writing a private letter you obviously care more about the recipient than the general public at large. Why would your letter be less polished than a public work?). Pliny the Younger is best known for his brilliant letters, Cicero’s letters have been studied for generation, a large part of the bible is made up of letters.

‘I thought this was about list posts, what do letters have to with this?’ you ask. My point is all writing is an example to show your skill and a challenge to make your topic interesting. It is also a chance to succeed as a writer. If you are writing list posts about cats and filling half the page with GIFs, then you have given up on actually writing and are now merely marketing in the hope of internet points.

Whether writing a blog post that 5 people will see, a letter to your mother, or a cover letter for a job application – take pride in your writing. Use it as an opportunity – the topic is mundane mais qui s’en fout? That just makes it more of a challenge and a greater chance for improvement.

Pride can be a weakness, but have enough that you can hold yourself above such shoddy writing and say ‘I know I can do better than that and I want to better than that.’

 

 

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Writing

Work Write Balance: Writing with a Heavy Workload

Sorry about the title, I couldn’t decide between that and “the write balance…” they both seems equally good-in-a-bad-way to me.

Having recently taken on a second job at a small Parisian startup, I find that I have increasingly little time for myself and my writing/reading. The natural solution would be to not have two jobs – I only need one so why should I torture myself? Well I happen to like them both and, thank God, both involve writing. One job is all writing and the other is around 1/3rd writing. But it I’m not always writing about things that I want to write about (however, I have discussed how this kind of writing is good for you anyway).

Regardless, this work now takes up the vast majority of my time. And that means all my studying, reading, exercising and writing are now crunched into a much smaller amount of time. Add to that that I am exhausted during this time off and you can see how my writing might drop off in both quality and quantity. The only way around this is extremely effective time management. I am blessed insofar as part of my job involves writing – this is not the case for every aspiring writer. However despite this cushioning, I have found myself cutting things out of my life that I used to think were necessary. Things like reddit and other social news platforms. Platforms that can draw one into endless and wearisome debates about Trump and Clinton (the irony being the interlocutor often ends up not even being American!).

It’s not just about giving up time wasting activities; if careful, one can continue to add activities so long as he holds to a routine. My workouts  just had to move forward and had to be much more anal about punctuality. I’ve had to be more anal about everything, really. And this is the key. Having a big anchor like a job compress the rest of your time can, in my opinion, cause you to get more done in the other spheres of your life. Now that   structure is required, you structure everything.

So if you start to structure your life this way, writing won’t be a problem. You have to make time for it by cutting out the things that you know you don’t need to be doing (and oftentimes they are things that you don’t want to be doing, you are just doing them out of habit and that is all). Do you really want to be on pinterest? Or do you want to be writing? Would you rather be a great pinterester or a great writer?

Another thing that I have been doing is being harder on myself insofar as producing results. Work is a results driven environment, I have to turn in to turn in results at specific times and the results have to be good.

And that is the theme here, the more of your life that you treat as work, the more you will get done outside of work.

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Writing

The Many, Many, Many Benefits of Journaling

For the sake of journalistic (or blogger, whatever) integrity I have to be honest: I am horrible at keeping journals. It is a next to impossible task for me to keep writing in one for more than a month. I get sick or go on vacation and habit dies a quick death. But when I do keep journals I feel like I realize the value as I am writing it. I get to run through my day, critique my actions, and practice my writing. And, of course, a lot of things that seem like a big deal when they are happening seem pathetically unimportant seven hours later when I am writing them down.

But what is  truly wonderful is the fact that you get to watch your writing style develop over the days, months, and years (you also get to see your handwriting get progressively better until high school and then fall off, at least in my case). You can see where you started and just how far you have come, which is wonderful when you are having doubts about your ability as a writer or whether or not you have improved. Doubts that everyone has in the path to becoming a writer… Actually, I’d say that no matter what art you choose, the further you get the slower you advance. And considering the difference between good and great is, in many cases, quite thin – you have to just keep working at it!

But if you don’t see your improvement it is too easy to get frustrated and fall into a rut. Once there you’ll have to climb out. And the easiest way to do this is to see just how far you have come.

But this is only one benefit the journaling has to the aspiring author – there are two others that I want to cover. The first is that it is a bottomless source of inspiration, especially if you develop some kind of tagging system (either on the computer or marking the top of the journal page). A short sentence at the top to give a sneak peek of the contents when browsing. You life is full of the stuff about which whole novels are written; the difference between you and a great writer is practice. A practiced eye insofar as finding the stories in the mundane, and a practiced style. Without both your writing can only be so good.

Lastly, it is a wonderful drug. Diving into your childhood, seeing how you felt and remembering things long forgotten, this is all priceless. And nostalgia is a feeling that sharpens others – a childhood memory is usually a thing of extremes extreme happiness, contentment, pain, wonder – and it is these kind of sharpened emotions that make the best materials for writing.

So start journaling, your future self will thank you.

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Writing

Always be writing

One thing that I have come to realize over the last few years of trying to be a writer is that you must always be writing. Always. I don’t want to sound like one of the those fifteen million blog articles on the internet that target authors who prefer to introduce themselves as an author rather than actually write… But this is one thing that you simply must do. you could use your laptop, tablet, etc. but the simplest tool is also the best: get a notebook.

Ideally you should already be journaling every night but this is another habit that you ought to pick up. Your ideas could come from anywhere and at anytime and, as I am sure you must know by now, they don’t always stick around. They may be killed off by a distraction or task at  hand. An ideal has lifespan and unless you write it down it is likely to die without any real development!

Save those ideas! I look over them at the end of the day and choose the ones that I think are worth keeping. Then I write them up on the computer – along with a little information about the circumstances that led to the idea. Return to this sheet once in a while and work out a new article, poem, or story from the best of these ideas.

Beyond just writing ideas, sometimes I’ll be sitting in the bus or the metro and just crank out a short story or poem in its entirety. These sometimes these are nice in and of themselves and sometimes serve as a nice sortie into uncharted territory. If you like the first report back, perhaps it is worth your time to expand the idea into a more detailed story.

There really is no excuse, if you want to be a writer you need to write. If you want to be one of those artists that does nothing but introduce themselves as such at dinner parties, then disregard all the above.

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Writing

Habits, Routine, and Writing

There is only one way to succeed as a writer and that is to write. ‘No shit’ you say, but do you really have a scheduled routine of writing? Not many do. In my experience writers write either to meet a deadline or when they feel inspired (with potentially very long period filling the chasms between periods of inspired writing). Writing is a skill, and like any skill, the only way to improve is through practice. It seems like with writing and art many feel as if you can’t improve unless you are working at the height of inspiration or have a particularly excellent idea.

This is idiotic. What would you say to a body builder who said he only worked out when he really felt like it? He’d never improve, or at least he’d only improve very slowly. If he worked out each day despite how he was feeling, he’d improve much quicker. And, better, when he did feel really inspired he’d probably be lifting a lot more than he would have otherwise because he had been slowly improving during the time between fits of inspiration.

It is the same with writing. If you write a lot and write often, you will have more experience and a better developed skillset for when you really want to write. That is, your writing will be much better during those inspired peaks! This becomes a feedback loop: bored but write anyway, inspired and write better than normal, excited about ability, keep writing, etc. it becomes a positive feedback loop of improvement and enjoyment.

So it is important to create habits that lead to this kind of experience. You can start now: no matter how much work you have or how tired you are, write one journal entry per day. Or even write one blog article per day. Even if they are short and no one reads them, you will still be improving and this is what matters! I mean just this week I wrote two articles that no one read but it is important in the development of the habit and the skill!

Journaling itself has a host of benefits outside of skill development that I might write about later. But right now, get to work! Go write a poem, a review, a blog article, a journal entry!

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