Friday, May 15, 2009

Write well and prosper...

(Photo: me talking; people listening - go figure!)

Friday morning. 9:00 AM; and it looks like another beautiful day. Pontifications aside (and
you know how I love to pontificate!), I remember that - earlier this week - I promised to post a list of guiding principles when it comes to taking writing seriously.

I first offered these to students at Durant High School. Then I finessed them a little for the Bloomingdale Writers Connection workshop I taught. So here goes:
  1. Never, never, never, never, never give up. We all know the Churchill story, the speech he gave at his former school where he had been bludgeoned with discouragement. But the idea never grows old. Good writing is as much a product of tenacity as it is talent.
  2. Good writing will improve pretty much everything about your professional life – not matter what your profession. If you think this technical age of digital everything reduces the need for written communication skills then you're dead wrong. There's more text to read, digest, summarize and disseminate than ever before. If you can write in a manner that's even a little engaging... then you're that far ahead of the crowd.
  3. Don’t work to earn money – earn money so you can be free to do the work you’re called to do. This could be an entire post by itself. So it will be... Stay tuned!
  4. Always write the truth... but truth is always far more than a mere collection of facts. I showed a series of slides at the writers workshop. One example was a picture of London after an air-raid during WW2. "The fact," I said, "is that my mother's house was blown up on a certain date in 1944. But now let me tell you the story behind the fact." Another was a photo of my immediate family in front of a Holland America cruise ship. "The facts are simple. May 4, 2006, 11 people boarded this cruise ship in Seattle. The Alaska cruise lasted 7 days. Now let me tell you the story...."
  5. There is a market for good news! The same news industry that insists on selling the darkest collection possible of tragedy, scandal, violence and bad news in general... is slowly but surely going out of business. No, the answer isn't this simple; but the truth is, people do enjoy reading positive news and stories of redemption.
  6. The Socratic maxim – “The unexamined life is not worth living”. My blog (this blog) “A Life Examined” is dedicated to the notion that self-examination is at the root of personal growth. Writing that fails to include this element is, ultimately, dishonest and hollow.
  7. Accountability – be a part of some kind of group where you ask one-another hard questions as well as give encouragement and support. Not just a criticism group or a group that reads one-another's writing, but a group that offers support and encouragement for life in general. This is where my men's small group and my parents of grads Bible-study step up as real life changers.
Just scratching the surface, but - in my experience - these are seven principles pretty much guaranteed to get novice writers over the hump.

Love and blessings - always - DEREK

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