How to Write (Well)

How to Write (Well)

Raymond Chandler said, “Technique alone is never enough. You have to have passion. Technique alone is just an embroidered potholder.” That’s why I believe that it’s not just clarity and grammar that make a piece excellent: it’s where you write from. Good writing comes from a place of excitement, freedom, play, creativity, imagination, abandon, even love. Sadly, the pervasive belief out there is that writing is tortuous, arduous, like trying to bring water from stone.

The truth? Hemingway didn’t mean that writing is hard when he wrote about sitting at the typewriter and bleeding. He meant it’s about going deep, getting to the heart of matters, of what it means to be human.

Writing itself isn’t hard. We make it hard. We fear revealing too much about ourselves. We fear going deep, to places that emotionally frighten us. We fear being criticized. We fear failure or success. We fear we’re not good enough or as good as someone else. We’re scared about not knowing what we’re doing, about starting from scratch every day, about not having anything to write, or thinking no one will want to read it. We get in our own way in countless ways. But the experience of writing doesn’t have to be this fraught. No one on this earth wants things to be difficult, yet we make things hard for ourselves.

When we change our frame of mind, the act of writing is fun. Then we stick with it, we want to do it, we allow ourselves to write bravely, deeply, without censorship. This feels euphoric, cathartic—just plain GOOD. So we do it more. The easiest way to form a habit is to enjoy what you’re doing or change your thinking about it so that it becomes enjoyable, or at least feels beneficial.

And all this fun doesn’t mean writing only shiny, happy people or stories. You can write the most revolting character out there who does the most heinous things. Look at the brilliance of Cormac McCarthy or Daniel Woodrell.

The key to success as a writer is truly understanding where good writing comes from.

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