« Pacing Thing Recipes

Writing

Basics

  • Read: On Writing Well by William Zinsser. This will help you away from your bad habits, such as trying to sound important when you write.
  • Learn basic high school-level grammar. You should know about sentence structure, including how to use commas, colons, dashes, etc. You should know what an adjective is. Go through Kahn Academy’s course: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/grammar. If you already know a lot of it, just challenge the unit tests rather than watching the videos until you get to a point that you aren’t getting 100% on the tests. At that point, watch the required video(s).

Story

  • Story Grid by Shawn Coyne. This book helps you see story through the eyes of an editor. It is a system for making a book that people actually like reading.
  • The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell and journalist Bill Moyers. This was a PBS interview series, but is available as an audio program on Audible. Listen to “Episode 1: The Hero’s Adventure”. Joseph Campbell’s life work was to study what enduring stories have in common.

Communicating ideas

  • Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. If you want to write about ideas, read this book to write persuasively and memorably.

The “Inner Game”

How to make it from blank page to finished project.

  • The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Exercises:

  • Literally type out the works of your favourite writers. It seems strange, but try it. It forces you to really absorb and notice the writing.
  • Make a blog or some other place where you are committed to writing and publishing daily. You don’t even have to tell anyone about it. If you don’t know how to do it well, do it poorly. There is magic to publishing daily. If it’s not optional, you will come up with things to write. The act of publishing helps you see your work through other people’s eyes.
  • Set a daily writing goal. It can be a word count goal or a time goal. If you go with the word count, do not worry about the quality. It’s a win if you do your 250 words. If you do a time goal, turn off your internet and eliminate all distractions for 1 hour. You are welcome to just sit there staring at a wall. If that’s what you want to do, that’s fine. But chances are that at some point you will start to write.

Frankly, if you are writing daily, you have more claim to the title “writer” than most people who claim this title. Join Sharpen the Saw for accountability and camaraderie on this. It’s the best way to make sure it happens.

Random advice:

  • Make it visual… and appeal to other senses, but mostly, make it visual.
  • Make it funny by replacing boring words with funnier versions (HT: Scott Adams)

Other:

  • Read On Writing by Stephen King. A couple of take-aways: Reading bad writing is just as helpful as reading good writing. Avoid adjectives. Write in active voice. Show, don’t tell.

Join Sharpen the Saw and practice daily with us.