When you can write well, you can think well.
Writing takes many forms. Some people peck on their keyboards and some craft beautiful longhand letters. Most of my writing is in cursive (many would call it ‘chicken scratch’) on top perforated legal pads. I buy them in bulk and go through one pad every couple of weeks. I’ll write on the front of each page and then flip it over to continue on the next, never writing on the back of the page. My favorite pen is the Pilot Precise V7 RT but it bleeds a little so I don’t write on both sides of the pages. I go through one of these pens every couple of weeks as well so I also buy them in bulk. Sometimes I use my laptop as a writing surface:
At the end of the writing session I’ll tear out the pages, staple them together, and file them in a folder corresponding to their content. It could be a something for my journal, a list, an idea, a diagram, notes from a phone call or meeting – I’m a compulsive note-taker. I have this sense, though, that it’s not something creative.–And that bothers me. However, for better or for worse, that’s my writing process.
I’ve always admired Stephen King. Not only as a writer, but also for what he’s overcome in his personal live, both physically and emotionally. It’s presented beautifully in this Zen Pencils comic, The Desk.
In his memoir, “On Writing”, Stephen King says to tackle the things that are hardest to write.
The most important things are the hardest things to say,
They are the things you get ashamed of because words diminish your feelings.
Most great pieces of writing are preceded with hours of thought. In King’s mind,
Writing is refined thinking.
That echoes what Orwell and Wilde laid out for us.
As far as the mechanics go, there is plenty of advice about being a better writer but one of the best essays on writing is from Scott Adams – “The Day You Became a Better Writer”. Who knew that a simple business writing course has 80% of what you need to be a good writer? Seriously, who knew this and why was it kept secret for so long? I suspect that some authors like to over-complicate their craft, perhaps from ego, or perhaps just from not having taken a course in business writing. The Pareto Principle certainly applies here, learning 20% of the fundamentals will improve your writing by 80%.
To summarize on a contrarian note I leave you with the most important rule in Neil Gaiman’s “8 Rules of Writing”. It’s the last one:
The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.