You’ll often hear that the key to writing is to just write. This is mostly good advice, and works for those nervously dipping their feet into the waters. But for people who write regularly, if not every day, like columnists or students for example, sometimes this may not be enough. Doing the same thing over and over might hone a particular set of skills to perfection, but over time, you see your writing get “tired” and “stale.” Here are three ways to shake off the writing doldrums.
Out of your everyday One reason why field reporters won’t normally face the kind of problem outlined above is because they’re always out, in the midst of things, seeing, hearing, experiencing events as they happen. This brings authenticity to their work; they are able to produce, if asked to, concrete details that make the story come alive (in the hands of a capable sub-editor, of course).
There’s a lesson to be learned here. Even if you’re doing a lot of research on your work, there’s no beating actual experience. So get up and do something different to experience it, and then write about it. We’re not endorsing risk-taking here - do something you normally won’t do. Pay your rickshawalla a hundred bucks to let you pull his vehicle for an hour. After feeling it in your muscles, the heat on your back, the next time you write about the working class, you’ll have tactile experience to draw from.
The bottom line here is to go through it yourself. At best, it will elevate your authenticity, give you fresh perspective, and promote lateral thinking. At worst, you will have a great story to tell.
We all need somebody to lean on You can hit up the stores or trawl through the Internet for all your writing tools, but nothing beats good solid one-on-one coaching from an experienced role model, someone who has already done what you have, and wants to help. This is why new moms seek out other mothers for advice. This is why writers groups exist, people!
If you’re making a career out of your writing, it’s advised to find yourself a mentor who will not only let you bounce ideas off him/her, but guide you through the process of getting published, getting publicity for your work, and managing to keep it altogether.
But before you go banging on the door of the writer nearest to you, remember the advice given by Ernest Hemingway in Midnight in Paris: “If it's bad, I'll hate it because I hate bad writing, and if it's good, I'll be envious and hate all the more. You don't want the opinion of another writer.” Choose carefully.
Edit your favourite novel What follows in the wake of every great piece of popular fiction is a host of fanfic writers who fall in love with the basic world of the story, but also have their own ideas of how they want the story to play out. This is an excellent writing exercise, one which provides you the set characters and world, and isolates your “story writing” muscles and lets you work those out.
Dana Sitar, author of A Writer’s Bucket List, writes: “Do you already do this sometimes while you read? Maybe you just note typos and errors in your head, or maybe you actually carry a pencil to mark them in already-published books? Those errors can’t escape your writer’s eye.
Go ahead! Correcting work you love can be a good exercise to strengthen your own writing. Noting errors that elude the editor’s eye and the sentences you would reconstruct in your favorite novel can both train you to deconstruct the story in a new way and remind you that even your favorite writers aren’t infallible.”