Often, I make resolutions...not just at the beginning of a new calendar year as one I am contemplating presently seems to have arisen from...but driven by the desire to actually take action on an idea or plan I may have long been ruminating. My writing, or lack thereof, is in this category. I have all the best intentions, of course, of disciplining myself enough to give forth the effort it requires to perform the simple act of writing. Or is it really simple, after all? Seems there are times when I simply stare at the blinking cursor, like an impatient person tapping frustrated toes...c'mon, c'mon, hurry up now! More often than not, I fail to deliver. Damn the blank page!
In the past, I have acquired many journals. Some merely ordinary, just plain by appearance. Others with supple, buttery smooth covers and bookmarks stitched into the bindings, weighted charms dangling from the ribbon. Some have had handmade papers, others, the mass-produced lined varieties. The one constant, it occurs to me, is that I have looked at these books with hesitation and dealt with the writing in them with more than a little procrastination. I felt that whatever I wrote had to be profound or witty, or at the very least intellectual. I am attempting to break that habit now, but find that I feel incredibly stuck. The answer lies in just doing, this I am quite sure of. As Sean Connery's character told an aspiring young author in the movie "Finding Forrester", "Writers......write." They don't contemplate it, reason it through, perfect it in their heads. No, they write. And write some more. Recalling my past knowledge as one that has spent a fair amount of time writing, I remember that the more I performed the task, the easier it became. And the quality generally improved, too.
As an athlete trains and cross-trains, there are "exercises" to becoming a better writer. One I have always enjoyed is simply reading. I don't read solely for the entertainment value...I read with the perspective of trying to get inside of the author's head. I gain insight and appreciation for the character development, the choices of words, the word pictures and feelings that the piece I am reading bring forth. I know that the easier it is for me to read, the more difficult it likely was for the writer to create.
Another exercise is basically compulsory and has its origins for me in my 7th grade English class, when my teacher would write a word on the blackboard each day. Students were awarded extra credit points for turning in the proper definition. This taught me that building my vocabulary was a valuable asset in my creative writing endeavors. The thesaurus became a desktop companion and saw more use than my dictionary as I began to write poetry more and more.
But the most vital exercise? Write. Just do it. Even if it is destined for the recycle bin. Write and then write some more.
"So often is the virgin sheet of paper more real than what one has to say, and so often one regrets having marred it." ~Harold Acton, Memoirs of an Aesthete, 1948
"The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say." ~Anaïs Nin
"A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket." ~Charles Peguy
"The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium." ~Norbet Platt
"It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop." ~Vita Sackville-West
"The wastebasket is a writer's best friend." ~Isaac Bashevis Singer
"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." ~William Wordsworth
"Easy reading is damn hard writing." ~Nathaniel Hawthorne
"Ink and paper are sometimes passionate lovers, oftentimes brother and sister, and occasionally mortal enemies." ~Emme Woodhull-Bäche
"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug." ~Mark Twain
"I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions." ~James Michener
"A writer and nothing else: a man alone in a room with the English language, trying to get human feelings right." ~John K. Hutchens, New York Herald Tribune, 10 September 1961
"Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don't start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague." ~William Safire, "Great Rules of Writing
"If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad." ~Lord Byron
"All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
"A perfectly healthy sentence, it is true, is extremely rare. For the most part we miss the hue and fragrance of the thought; as if we could be satisfied with the dews of the morning or evening without their colors, or the heavens without their azure." ~Henry David Thoreau
"Write your first draft with your heart. Re-write with your head." ~From the movie Finding Forrester
"An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere." ~Gustave Flaubert
"Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand." ~George Orwell, "Why I Write," 1947