Playing has everything to do with good-enough writing. If we can’t start, we’ll never finish. Thus, I make writing anything into a game because I have a fairly simple kid within me who likes games and will take on any dare. I’ll say, “Hey, I dare you to write a really crappy version of that assignment you’ve been given (or have given yourself)!”
“Your brain is most intelligent when you don’t instruct it on what to do”
~ Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Seriously, without fail, this invitation provokes me to give it a try. Why? Because I can’t fail at producing a really crappy version of anything and I hate to fail. What’s more, if there’s no version to work with, there’s nothing to share with the world (via publishing).
Such tricks (and their inevitable treats that follow) may get even the stuffiest intellectuals down on the ground with paint on their hands. When writing has no more at stake than finger painting, we’re all a bit more willing to throw ourselves into the game of creating. I know; I’ve been using this trick on myself since 1985 (graduate school at Princeton Seminary).
“I can’t write a book commensurate with Shakespeare, but I can write a book by me.” ~ Walter Raleigh, Sr.
Keeping your writing simple isn’t done just for you to get something out and down on paper, it can save your reader a lot of hassles. Consider this: if you cannot say what you mean in one page, you may need more time to keep writing in your journal (or on those pesky scraps of paper). Ask your inner writer, “What am I trying to share with my ‘just right’ reader?”
“Elevator speeches” can help, i.e., can you talk about your book project in the time it takes to go from the 1st floor to the 9th floor of a building? Using such a facile technique doesn’t mean the book will be thin soup for the reader, rather, they’ll have a sense that you’ve been working with a clear head and have a strong sense of where you will be taking them on their reading expedition.
Another trick I’ll use to stay connected to my reader is to keep in mind (as my imaginary audience) an intelligent and curious 8th grader. If I cannot connect with her, hold her attention, interest her, or help her flourish in a way that she’ll understand, then I’ll be missing most readers all together.
As a university professor and an academic writer from 1993-2005, I have developed lots of methods to impress my competition (the few readers of academic journals who love to find logical holes in other people’s arguments). While my skin got thicker every year, I lost my capacity to relate to my ideal readers.
Now, I write to connect, not to impress. My recommendation to you is this: “Have a non-academic friend read your book, preferably a teenager who loves to read. She or he may be your best test-reader and will offer you the most helpful feedback!” Of course, if you want further guidance and even more simple tricks-of-the-trade, give me a call.
Jennifer Manlowe, PhD is an author, educator, writing and publishing coach with over 20 years of experience helping people express themselves in ways that bring joy, self-sufficiency, good pay and a sense of contribution. She loves hearing from readers and writers and is eager to support them as they launch their creative work in the world!
Be sure to schedule a 15-minute complimentary book coaching session via email: AuthorizeU@gmail.com. If we begin working together, my eBook—Writing From Life: A Wise Guide to Publishing Your Memoirs—will be yours as part of the coaching package.