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Pen IN Hand
That about sums up what it's like to get words down on paper for you? Or maybe your brow furrows, your eyes squinch, your breath catches and blood oozes from your pores in lieu of sweat when confronted with a blank page?
It doesn't have to be that hard. There's help everywhere. Books to spruce up your grammar and punctuation. Magazines offering articles on the craft. Writings in all mediums to spark the imagination and the web for almost everything you can imagine and a lot you probably can't.
You talk, you gesture, maybe you take part in chat rooms online. You're communicating. Writing is communicating. You do it often and most of you do it well. Putting those thoughts down on paper or up on a computer screen may take a little more thought, a little more organization, but in the end it is a skill, an art that can be mastered with thought and practice.
Think about it for a moment. Writing, in one form or another, dominates the world we live in. Everything from the simple business letter, to newspapers and magazines, books of fiction and non-fiction, scripts for films and news shows and TV, pamphlets, instruction manuals; all are written somewhere by someone. It is a broad subject hiding behind a variety of labels. Fiction. Business writing. Copywriting. Technical writing. Journalism. The list goes on, but I won't. I mean, what else would you and I do instead, pass everything along by word of mouth? It's been done and it hasn't worked very well.
Fiction happens to be my first love (bet you could tell from that first paragraph, huh?), but I've written everything from published novels to optioned ,screenplays to fund-raising letters for non-profit organizations to travel articles for the web. It is a transferable skill. Trust me on this. If you can wrestle the English language into comprehensible form you can write in any arena. It just takes the desire, the time and the effort to learn what is needed for that particular field. Obviously some take more research and possibly even more risk than others (a war correspondent takes a few more risks than a fiction novelist).
So, for those of you who write, I recommend writing everything. Flex your muscles, exercise your brain. Scattered you say? Well, it could be. I don't recommend writing everything at the same time. That's where organization comes in. If you are striving to become a freelance writer creating as broad a base as possible for yourself seems advisable. It's served me well over the years. Writers need to eat and keep a roof over their heads as much as the next guy, contrary to some popularly held belief that writers should ply their "art"for nothing. So, keep your interests broad, jump at the opportunity to add to your abilities, and then focus once there is a project before you.
Probably the most difficult thing is putting that first word on a blank sheet of paper or up on your intimidating computer screen. There's been a huge amount written about writer's block, angst, and generally not being able to produce so much as a word. That's where the squinching, the sweating and the shortness of breath come in.
So here's the solution. Put a word on paper or on the computer screen. It doesn't matter what the word is. Follow it with another. It still doesn't matter what it is. Keep going until something begins to flow. Perhaps it will be the beginning of the great American novel. Perhaps not.
Use this simple exercise whenever you can't seem to put two thoughts together and I guarantee shortly you will be writing with the flow. Ninety percent of writing is re-writing. It's a lesson well learned early.
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