Keeping writers focused

Or, as I call it, keeping unruly geniuses professionals writers focused.

Gosh, writers are such hard work, aren’t they? The constant need for recognition, motivation, and a pat on the back. Does the chip on the shoulder come before or after one’s dedication to their art I wonder? Is that a Dorito stuck to your face? Get out of your pyjamas will you? Nooo – wine-o-clock is after midday. And for the love of humanity stop playing that ridiculous ukulele, I’m trying to work here.

Whines Complaints Comments commonly heard from writers:

Monkey typing

Shakespeare, anyone?

  • I know the rules of grammar – so I can break them
  • Stop stripping the personality out of my articles
  • Don’t oppress me
  • I can write perfectly well when drunk

Writers are self indulgent primadonnas delicate people. They are to be utterly admired for their dedication to their art, and their courage to pursue it as a full time career, but this is precisely why they are insecure, quarrelsome fusspots prone to the temptations of self-doubt. Even the most dedicated professionals need a bit of a kick up the arse motivation occasionally. So what kind of support does a writer need?

  • Constructive criticism
  • Encouragement to set goals
  • Recognition for a job well done

But how to recognise when a writer needs encouragement? Deviation from the artistic path often manifests in pyjamas being worn to the supermarket, a sparkling clean home/car, and facial tics, not to mention early-onset agoraphobia. Firmness is necessary to help the writer retain focus. Help them to set goals, and cheer them on as they achieve them. For example – ‘Yes Andy fellow writer, you may set a trap for the pigeon after these articles are finished.’

Sometimes writers are terribly prolific. Sometimes fifty words are used where one would have sufficed, and sometimes it may have been a better idea to use just the one. Sort through the 990 page ‘novella’ for the real gems of the piece, give these the recognition deserved, and be stern with the next Tolstoy about trimming the fat. Editing is not about destroying style but about helping authors strengthen the creative elements of their writing. Don’t oppress you? Pahleese – stop choking your own messages with verbosity.

For the blocked writer try associative or free writing. Even write a shopping list for starters. Give up on the idea that the piece has to be good/entertaining/informative. All this can come in the re-write.

For the renegade writer to whom rules don’t apply, simply ask what Hunter S. Thompson would do.

What would Hunter S. Thompson do?

hunter s thompson shooting

'It would not do to be seen under these circumstances: firing wildly into the cactus from a car full of drugs.'

Apart from imbibing a plethora of chemical cocktails, Hunter was a dedicated professional. Take the following quote – ‘It would not do to be seen under these circumstances: firing wildly into the cactus from a car full of drugs.’ The use of grammar is correct, conservative even; it is the use of language that shocks.

A favourite reminder of the correct use of punctuation is as follows:

Dear John,
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy–will you let me be yours?
Gloria

Dear John

John is at the mercy of proper punctuation

Dear John,
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?
Yours, Gloria

Next time you feel like breaking a rule or using sloppy prose, just think to yourself – what would Hunter do? Of course – you may substitute your favourite talented author – Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Conrad – and you can be assured that although they may not fire wildly into the cactus through a drug-induced haze, they were equally committed to upholding the use of good language.

So, I hear you sniffle indignantly – do all writers become pyjama-wearing, obsessive compulsive alcoholics, starved of company and attacked by evil pigeons?! Yes. But eccentricity has its perks. No! The rest of he world is simply envious that you are unemployed living your life’s purpose. Just remember your editor is not your enemy and to take a shower every couple of days.

evil pigeon of deadly death

Evil pigeon of deadly death that haunts Andy's nightmares (and courtyard)

Until next time,

Tessa

Lexicon Press

* Disclaimer – no writer or evil pigeon was harmed in the making of this blog. I am also a writer and thus felt qualified to heap derision on my kind.


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1 Comment

  1. Susan Roberts

     /  October 24, 2011

    So true. i know that bit about having a sparkling house whenever there’s any brain work to be done

    Reply

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