Each week, Evan Peterson rounds up five stories from across the Web that scribes of all stripes should check out.
Sitting down to write whatever comes to mind has long been a warm-up routine for writers. The idea is that if you sit and write things down, you'll stretch your creative muscles enough that, eventually, you'll come to an idea that makes sense. This week, several posts and stories shared different approaches to this practice. It doesn't necessarily apply to all kinds of writing.
Also, some tips on translating grammar rules and how one writer turned tacos into writing inspiration.
Reporting vs. creativity:
Writers of journalistic, marketing and creative work face many of the same challenges: story ideas, structure, word choice, etc. But the path to getting to the completed piece is very different for writers in varying fields. Tom Fields-Meyer, a magazine writer by trade, wrote about the difference in this post that describes his experience in a creative writing class. As he explains, journalists have a very good idea of what they're going to write once the reporting is done. But in writing short stories or essays or memoirs, there's a process of just starting to write that is required before the story comes out.
According to Angela Maiers on Huffington Post
, simply sitting down and writing is a useful way to get any kind of writing done. The author of six books writes—almost in verse —about how she finally came to call herself a writer.
Are you as good as you think?
This piece from the Globe and Mail
explores the "above average effect,"—the theory that many people perceive themselves to be better at a skill than they actually are— and how it relates to writing in the workplace. Again, the theory of “practice makes perfect” is enforced here. But not just for professional writers. This piece is addressed to anyone who has to write an email or presentation. It goes on to list tips for how to improve your business writing, which you may not need if you're a professional writer. But then again, maybe you're not as good as you think you are.
Translating grammar directives:
The rules of proper grammar can be hard to remember, especially when you use the proper terms. Plenty of style guides avoid terms like "nominalizations," or the more technical descriptions of tenses and parts of speech—the "present participles" of the world. Rebecca Toor writes for the Chronicle of Higher Education
about how she—never having learned these terms in school—has found ways to remember their lessons:
Nominalization, in case you weren't aware, turns verbs into fuzzy nouns. "Investigate" morphs into "investigation"; "applicable" dresses up as "applicability." In order to weed them out I've learned a trick. I scan my manuscripts for words that end in -tion, -ism, -ty, -ment, -ness, -ance, and -ence. Then I grab a more muscular verb and slip in a concrete noun (when it makes the sentence better).
Toor's piece also explains several tools for revising your writing, and cutting nominalizations, adjectives, and other excessive phrasings.
Trading two tacos for inspiration:
Most of us have a moment or a teacher or a book or a writer that made us want to become writers. There are lots of interesting ways to tell the story of what inspired our interest and our career. But your story is likely not as interesting as that of Daniel Woodrell, author of “Winter's Bone.” He traded two tacos in Tijuana for a copy of Hemingway's “A Moveable Feast” and his life was never the same. He wrote about his story in The Atlantic
Evan Peterson is a writer based in Chicago, and the editor of OpenMarkets magazine at CME Group. He's on Twitter at @evanmpeterson.