Lesson 4: Using the Writer’s Arsenal Wisely
- To enumerate skills and tools needed to be a good creative writer
- To demonstrate the proper context in which to use these skills
- To enumerate and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using these tools
Quick Navigation through the Lesson 4:
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In addition to desire, there are a lot of tools and skills which you need in order to become a good creative writer. Perfection of language and grammar are a must—mastering the elements of your genre is crucial. Here we will discuss the different tools you’ll need and how to use them.
I. The Arsenal
The road to creative writing is paved with challenges. To overcome them, you’ll need a number of tools in your arsenal. Below are five of the most crucial skills you have to master.
Know Yourself. To be able to produce good work, you have to be honest with yourself and know which working environments you will be most productive in. You also need to set realistic goals for yourself (e.g. 2 works of fiction a day, 5 poems a week) while still being able to push the envelope. This allows you to become a) productive and b) progressive.
Self-editing. While it is good to go to workshops and show your work to other people, as you mature as a writer you also have to learn how to edit yourself. You cannot always rely on others to provide feedback for your works in progress and so you have to learn to critique your work as someone reading it for the first time, your knowledge of your conceptual intentions aside.
Quick-spiration. A good writer is never without inspiration—because he/she can take it from anything: a bus ride, a walk in the park, a lost P20 bill on the sidewalk. You must learn not to rely on “inspiration” to arrive, but to create it.
Vocabulary. Vocabulary—this is your main weapon when attacking the page. These are the bullets in your machine gun and so you should always be expanding your knowledge of words and subsequently, contexts and situations so that you are never at a loss for words.
Experiences. Even if writing itself involves mainly sitting down at a computer and typing, a lot of what goes into writing are things which you see around you or which you encounter by being outside. It’s important to be keen about things which happen in your environment. Otherwise, you run out of things to write about or your ideas become trite.
Pen & Paper. Ideas are nothing without a way to nail them down—if you have chosen to become a creative writer, then you always need to have a pen and paper on hand. If you are writing a story, the perfect conclusion won’t always come to you in the confines of your home, while you’re sitting in front of the computer: sometimes it arrives while you’re on the train or while you’re out at dinner with your family. It’s good to always be prepared. This also acts as practice.
Discipline. All the scheduling, experiences and ideas go to waste if you don’t have the discipline to sit down and write.
Restraint. Creative writing is all about restraint—essays, stories and poems are good only when the proper details have been carved out. You should know what to say and what to leave out when writing so your work is never dull or repetitive.
Good books. You are what you read, or so the old adage goes. Reading is the best way to learn how to write. You can never go wrong with a good library: this teaches you what to write about, how to write it and how to do it well.
II. The Application
Okay, so now that you know what you’ll need, how do you go about incorporating them in your work? Let’s enumerate a few ways in which this can be done.
Defamiliarization. This is a technique used by writers to be able to distance themselves from their experiences so that they can write about it better. Let’s say you’re writing an essay on a traumatizing experience—if you’re still very attached to the experience, you will feel sad every time you try to write. To avoid that, try and detach yourself from the experience by thinking of the experience objectively or through someone else’s eyes. In writing, this can be done by switching points of view.
Write every day. This incorporates discipline and restraint but it also helps you write better because your flow of ideas will be continuous. It will also help your work have a more cohesive feel because the intervals during which the words were written is smaller. The ability to be inspired quickly also comes in handy because you will need more things to write about in a smaller period of time.
In this lesson we learned about the tools we’ll need and different ways in which we can incorporate them into our writing. We learned that it’s important to be able to translate the things we’ve learned both through experience and by reading into tour work. We also learned a couple of good ways in which we can apply this to our work and overcome some of the limitations that may come with employing these tools.
Next, we’re going to learn about our best but most basic tool: words. We’ll be learning about how important choosing the right words are and how they can make a big difference in our journey toward becoming great creative writers. You now know what to say—read on and you’ll learn about how to say these in the best way possible.