How to Write Like a Pro

Posted on 15. Jun, 2011 by in Writing

Over the years I have developed a system for writing. This is what works for me:

Set up a writing schedule. I used to do everything I could to avoid writing. I would check my email, surf the net, clean up my workspace, read the newspaper, and so on. These days I have breakfast, make a cup of coffee, and head downstairs to my work space where I decide which writing project I want to work on. I try to work for at least two hours before taking a break.

Prevent writer’s block. Some writers will tell you there’s no such animal, that it never happens to them. Maybe so, but for us lesser beings it is often a struggle to start a new project. If you use a computer (like me), here is an exercise that will free your unconscious mind and put words on that blank sheet of paper. For this exercise you’ll need a thick towel and an alarm clock. The first thing you’ll do is toss the towel over your monitor. The second thing you’ll do is set your alarm clock for 5-10 minutes. Now, start typing. Just get all the crap out of your head. Don’t stop or try to revise until the alarm clock goes off.

This can be a fairly exhausting exercise, and at the beginning I found setting my alarm clock for 5 minutes worked best. As you develop stamina, you can set your alarm clock for longer periods of time. Once you remove the towel, you can start to clean up the spelling and grammar. You’ll be amazed at what came out of your brain.

Stay fit. The great Gabriel Garcia Marquez once compared the profession of writing to running a marathon. Okay, in my case it’s more a matter of slow walking. I just never do enough exercise. And I’ll probably never write as well as Marquez. But I am writing.

Never forget that you are a writer. Observation is everything in writing. Heed Henry James’s advice: “Try to be one of the people on whom nothing is lost!”

Buy a writer’s vest. This item of clothing is great for writing while traveling. I recently bought a writer’s vest from Tilley Co. It’s loaded with pockets, both inside and outside, which are sealed by Velcro®. What’s neat about the vest is that I don’t have to lug around an expensive laptop everywhere I go. I can carry pens and paper, as well as a camera and even a cell phone while I explore foreign territories. I even wear it at home because I never know when an idea will strike me and I want to be ready when it does. And, no, I don’t own any shares in the company.

Take writing classes. You’ll meet other writers, perhaps a budding Hemingway or David Foster Wallace. It will also put pressure on you to write.

Join a critique group. Or two. Or three. Get your stories and articles out in the world and get feedback on them.

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One Response to “How to Write Like a Pro”

  1. Nelle Hinkston 15 June 2011 at 5:59 pm #

    I like what you did to the site. It’s bad ass.

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