10/13/16 How Do You Do It?

I am often asked, “How do you do it?”

I am asked this by many others who have started their own blogs only to find themselves with a dearth of something to write about. I have been asked this a half-dozen times today. The askers have the best of intentions, but they think they lack the wherewithal. I think they most likely have both: the intentions and the wherewithal. They should just get busy.

Of course, it takes time to write. Sometimes what it takes you twenty minutes to read took me ten hours to write, edit, re-edit, edit again, double edit, triple edit, agonize over one word or phrase in favor of another a dozen times, and then read it a month later and find a dozen things that need further editing.

It helps to be a writer if you don’t sleep much. The wee hours of the morning are great for undistracted writing, imaginary conversations, idle speculations, and outright prevarications, which are all great things on which to compose any sort of essay.

One of the things that works exceptionally well for me, when nothing else presents itself, is to find some profound quote from some great historical figure. There are thousands to choose from…all the Greek philosophers, great theologians, great leaders, great politicians (Yes, Virginia, they existed once!), great writers, great historians. The list is endless. Find that quote and figure out how you fit in it, and write about that.

The more I write, the more inclined I am to write. You can correctly surmise the truth of the reciprocal.

Anything you write does not always have to be the thing that is going to change the world. Neither you nor I are likely to change the world, nor win any Nobel prizes for literature, but then again, neither do a lot of other people, and they manage to write their whole lives. As an aside, a super congratulations to Bob Dylan for a much deserved Nobel Prize in literature. Yes, he is a songwriter, but he is first and foremost a poet who sets his poetry to music. I love Bob Dylan. He still inspires me.

And don’t, whatever you do, write introspective, insipid, teen-aged-angst-filled stuff, unless you happen to be an insipid, introspective, angst-filled teenager: then have at it. Just don’t expect anyone to care much about reading it, though I have to admit that grunge rock was angst-filled pablum to me, but it made lots of folks a lot of money because someone wanted to listen to it. I was not one of them.

Write about the human condition. We are all human and can easily identify with that. There’s plenty of room in there to insert yourself, as you are human, too.

But don’t be cute. And don’t be trite. And don’t write about partisan politics unless your real goal is to persuade, and persuasion does not take place with a hammer; that is coercion, not persuasion; there is a big difference. It takes a carrot to get the mule to plod along after it. It doesn’t even have to be a fresh, crisp carrot….just a carrot. A hammer will not do, though the occasional rant is OK, as long as you admit you’re ranting.

And avoid “very” and “really” as if they were poorly coiffed polyester clad bill collectors. They are really very bad to use as they very really, really signify nothing. Find some simile or metaphor that works better…the wilder they are, the more vivid they are, the brighter are the images they put in people’s minds. And that’s what you want to do, is give enough of a description so people can create images in their own minds. They have to like those images, since you only suggested them, and they create them themselves. How can they not like their own images?

Just write as if you were a Chicago voter: early and often.

Will you be successful at it? I don’t know. You have to set your own goals and decide if you have met them. But you won’t be successful at it merely by setting up a blog site that never gets beyond the first entry.

Now get busy.

©2016 Mississippi Chris Sharp

PS 10/20/16- There are 26 letters in the alphabet. Don’t let your adjectives begin and end with the letter “A”. “Really” and “Very”, as useless as they are, are more effective than the far beyond tired “Amazing” and “Awesome,” which are as dead and stinking as splattered road-kill on August afternoon sun-soaked asphalt. Use the entire alphabet of adjectives. They all belong to you, and they are free. You will be a really very awesome and amazing writer if you give up these awkward limitations.  Really! 🙂

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