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How to Be a Writer: 10 Tips from Rebecca Solnit

It’s up to you

It's up to you to become a good writer and you probably already know everything else you need to know, somewhere underneath the noise and the anxiety and the outside instructions.

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How to Be a Writer: 10 Tips from Rebecca Solnit

How to Be a Writer: 10 Tips from Rebecca Solnit

https://lithub.com/how-to-be-a-writer-10-tips-from-rebecca-solnit/

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Key Ideas

Write

There is no substitute for writing. 
Start small. Write a good sentence, then a good paragraph. Write a lot. You might not be great from the start, but it is the road to good writing.

Writing is not typing

Writing is about thinking, researching, contemplating, outlining, composing, then maybe some typing with revisions as you go, deletions, additions, reflections, setting aside and returning afresh.
Typing is what you do in the middle of the two vast thoughtful processes.

Read

Read good writing—Dickens or Baldwin or evolutionary biology textbooks or the Old Testament, whatever holds your attention.

Don't read something just because it is popular at the moment; otherwise, you will be like everyone else and will not be able to make a meaningful contribution.

Listen

Feedback is great, but there are times when you know exactly what you're doing. Listen to what makes you move or stops you in your tracks.
Listen to your own feedback and realize that you move forward through mistakes and flawed but aspiring work. Write for other people, but don't take their feedback to seriously.

Find a vocation

Talent is overrated. You need passion, vocation, vision, and dedication to get you through the rough spots in your style.

Time

Writing takes time. It means you will need to find that time. 

You probably have to do something else for a living in the beginning, but don't develop expensive habits or consume hobbies that will prevent you from writing.

Facts

Always get your facts right. Don't misrepresent

Regardless of what you're writing about, you have an obligation to get it right. Your credibility rests on your accuracy.

Joy

Writing is facing your deepest fears and failures, hoping that your worst version is revised so that posterity will never know how awful it was.

In there, your work has to bring you some kind of joy, including the joy of hard truths, told honestly. Find pleasure and joy. How you feel is something that you cannot take too seriously. Doing something is a means of not being stuck in how you feel.

Success

Success is very nice, but it is not love. It is at best the result of love of the work, but not of you.

Producing art is the process of becoming a person with independent thought, a producer of meaning, not a consumer of meanings that may be at odds with your inner person.

It’s up to you

It's up to you to become a good writer and you probably already know everything else you need to know, somewhere underneath the noise and the anxiety and the outside instructions.

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10 Tips on Writing

  1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. 
  2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.
  3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
  4. Never...

...Writing and thinking have always been a sort of ‘chicken and egg’ issue: which comes first – do I read and think and then start writing, or will the thinking only really come when the wri...

‘Writing’ is the formal processes that turns nebulous ideas into a concrete proposal that can be assessed without the author's intervention. 

‘Writing’ is the formal processes that turns nebulous ideas into a concrete proposal that can be assessed without the author's intervention. 

The Writing Process

  • Step 1: Messy, Informal, Scribbly ... Write down anything that jumps from your research or any crazy thought. 
  • Step 2: Creating a Skeleton for the paper. Come up with sections, subheadings.
  • Step 3: Crystallise core arguments. Use stickies to make it more visual.
  • Step 4: Add the words. This is where most people start with, but it succeeds only because of the previous steps. 

The first draft

The first words you write are the first draft. Writing is thinking. You'll rarely know what exactly you want to say when you start writing.

The time you put into editing, reworking and re...

Common errors

Most writing mistakes are widespread, but good writers just get better at spotting them. Some things you'll learn to watch for are:

  • Overuse of jargon and business-speak, like "utilize" or "endeavor" instead of "use" or "try."
  • Clichés are stale phrases that have lost their impact and novelty through overuse. If you are used to seeing it in print, don't use it.
  • The passive voice. The subject of the sentence should be the person or thing taking action, not the thing being acted on. "Harry wrote this article," is better than "This article was written by Harry."
  • Rambling. When you are not sure what you want to say, it is easy to phrase it in three or four different ways. A single concise sentence is generally better.

Give it some space

When you write something, you get very close to it. It is nearly impossible to distance yourself from it straight away to edit properly.

The longer you can leave a draft before editing, the better. Half an hour to two days is enough of a break to edit well. When you do edit, read your work out loud. You'll catch more problems and get a better feel for how everything flows.

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