Reposted: How to Pick up a Pen

Take a look at this interesting article by J.D. Cowan, readers:

How to Pick up a Pen

“I’m not an author, I’m a writer, that’s all I am. Authors want their names down in history; I want to keep the smoke coming out of the chimney.” ~ Mickey Spillane

It’s been awhile, so let us talk about the topic of writing. Just before Lent it appeared to be showing up all over social media in earnest, so it is clear there are many questions aspiring authors have. I’ll do my best to answer them in this post from the position of someone who will have been published by publishers and publishing my own works for near 5 years, at this point. It hasn’t felt much like it’s been that long, so it’s still a bit wild to think about. Being a professional writer is not a job I ever thought I would have in my lifetime.

And yet here I am, writing this very post.

Nonetheless, this post will be about learning how to become a writer. If someone like me can do it, then so can you. I was the least creative of my friend groups growing up, and the one who read the least, yet I am the one who is now the very opposite of all of them, do to making it my goal to learn story craft. Anyone can do it, so don’t ever convince yourself that you aren’t built for it. Talent merely gives you a head start: it will not keep you running the whole race. Only hard work matters, in the end. As long as you keep learning you can do just about anything.

The important part is learning the right way to handle things, which is definitely the trickiest part of being a writer. The main issue is that most of the advice comes from OldPub figures thinking with a 20th century mindset. It’s all simply outdated.

One of the most common complaints I received from The Pulp Mindset, apart from being too mean to the above OldPub, is that several of the readers wished I went more in-depth on my writing tips, of which I was intentionally light on. Of course, they knew why I couldn’t elaborate further–that simply wasn’t the point of the book, but it was a valid request nonetheless.

However, I also believe there are far too many books on writing out there in the market. Most will not help new writers because just about all of them contain contradictory advice, and many do not remember what it was like starting out and being adrift without a paddle to row them to shore. I myself went through many writing books when learning how to write and I can’t say any of them really influenced me much. Every writer simply absorbs information differently, which means explaining their specific process isn’t really going to aid confused newbies. What is more important is learning how to put a pen to paper, so to speak, and how to keep in there for the entire duration of your very first project. You need to learn the Why of writing before you begin, not the How.

Read more….

3 thoughts on “Reposted: How to Pick up a Pen

  1. Talent merely gives you a head start: it will not keep you running the whole race. Only hard work matters, in the end. As long as you keep learning you can do just about anything.

    I’d add that some folks just *can’t* learn a thing– at least not in any way they try. (Me. Languages. I can learn foreign words as extra vocabulary, but haven’t found a way to input new grammar nor separate it from language I already know. Don’t get me started on the “if you just try harder” thing for cold reading. I recognize some people can do it, doesn’t make the color blind identify red.)

    Thing is with writing, there are a gazillion ways to do it– so you can find or create one that works with your strengths.

    Have you ever looked at how many really good photographers are colorblind? It’s extremely disproportionate. Something about the inability to see specific colors lets them identify striking contrasts– I’ve got an uncle who is mostly colorblind and he’s incredible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Quite true – there are certain things that, no matter how much we wish we could, we just can’t learn. Take “learn to code,” for instance: how is someone who does moderately well with numbers but can’t program to save their life “learn to code” effectively enough to make a living at it? Or how does a software programmer who can create great computer programs make a living as a newspaperman when he can’t string enough words together to write a proper thank-you note, no matter how much effort he puts into it? People aren’t widgets that can be taught anything, and trying harder only gets a man so far. As you said, just because some people can do it, that doesn’t mean the color blind can identify red.

      There are, indeed, a gazillion ways to write. Just as there are a gazillion ways to do carpentry, metalwork, and even plumbing. Yes, you have universal basics in each case, but those are all overlaid with the personal adaptations of the writers/carpenters/metal workers/etc. We all wear shoes, but we don’t put them on in the same order or in the same way. Same for writing; learn the basics, then build off and adapt them to your specifications. It’s not easy but it *works*. And that’s what matters, in the end.

      No, I haven’t looked to see how many really good photographers are color blind. That’s fascinating! I suppose it’s a little like Beethoven – he couldn’t hear his own music, after he went deaf, but it’s some of the most beautiful music ever written. Funny how what we lack tends to make what we create even more striking, isn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

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