Writing Lessons

My greatest aspiration in life is to be a prolific writer. My 6th-grade English teacher, Ms. Eick, read my first poem and looked at me over her glasses. She told me I had a gift and that she saw my potential, but I must constantly work on my skill. Capitalizing on the potential Ms. Eick spotted is what motivates me.

To fulfill my purpose, I’ve had to shift how I view the creativity I was gifted with. Undergone a shift and thinking about the writing talent I was given with. While it is a gift, it must still be refined. I cannot reach my peak without laboring for it. As such, there are lessons I have learned along the way. Here are the key lessons that currently guide my journey as a writer:

  1. Don’t sweat the technique; Embrace the technology.

I confess that I have been a Luddite as a writer. I stubbornly clung to writing via Microsoft Word, unwilling to try anything new. I worried that taking advantage of the technological advances meant I was taking an easy way out or being less authentic with my craft. But I was wrong. And once I gave options like voice-to-text and writing on my smartphone a try, I chastised myself for waiting so long to switch over.

My mind races much quicker than I can type. By using voice-to-text or writing pieces with my iPhone, I can get a significant amount of content out of my mind and save it permanently in the cloud. There’s no change in authenticity, as I am still creating in my own words using my original thoughts. Ultimately, I must still type anyway to revise and rearrange my writing, as voice-to-text is imperfect. But by utilizing it consistently, I’ve drastically increased my output. I also no longer worry about my great ideas and random inspiration being lost if I don’t have my laptop readily accessible.

  1. Do the damn thing every day.

I used to complain that I didn’t have the time to write how I wanted to. I had so many excuses. I worked full time, had a daughter to raise, and had other family and relationship commitments that required my focus.

But the reality is that I was making excuses. I had the time. While I don’t have open hours available daily to devote to writing, I had no justification not to spend at least 15 to 30 minutes on it. And whenever I wanted to pretend otherwise, the screen time feature on my phone put me on blast. I made time to scroll social media. I made time to binge-watch on Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. If I could do those things, I could devote a meager 15 minutes to the passion I claimed was so important to me.

  1. Writer’s block isn’t real

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve anxiously stared at the vast white expanse of a Word or Google Doc. The words just wouldn’t come, and I’d quit in frustration. I’m ashamed to say that I even abandoned my passion project, my baby, the memoir I’m working on, for over 60 days at the end of 2022. I’d open my laptop, bring up the file on my phone, and then stop. Each time I tried, it got harder and harder. But in January, I told myself this project would never be done without commitment. Psychologically overwhelmed by the idea of writing a book, I broke the task into small pieces. I committed to writing 15 minutes daily and a set number of weekly pages. What have I learned since being more disciplined and writing daily, even for a minor amount? I’ve learned that writer’s block isn’t real! I don’t experience it if I actively write and keep my mind in a creative zone. Writer’s block, and all the anxiety and fear that comes with it, has primarily evaporated for me now that I am disciplined.

  1. Grit + gift= brilliance.

In my youth, I believed I could only write when my spirit was moved. I felt that doing it that way made for my best content. And while the creative spark and passion are incredibly useful, it’s not the only way for me to produce brilliant writing. I no longer wait for a perfect moment of inspiration to create because I know I can MAKE the ideal moment. Combining my inherent talent with steady focus has led to the most cherished content of my career.

  1. Invest in your craft. Put money into it!

I have a Grammarly Premium subscription. The $60 quarterly fee is worth every cent! In addition to assisting with minor grammatical errors, Grammarly has helped me improve my writing. Through Grammarly, I learned of my tendency to write in the passive voice. Though the constant alerts about this initially annoyed me, they alerted me to the pattern. Once more conscious, I could catch the mistake and rewrite it in the active voice, making for higher-quality writing. The next step for me is to invest in writing workshops and retreats. In doing so, I know I will take my skills to a higher level.

  1. Get comfortable with critique!

To paraphrase Erica Badu, all artists are sensitive about their shit. Writers are no different. But though critique isn’t always pleasant, I know I must grow. I listen to and process constructive feedback, confident that the result makes any temporary discomfort to my ego worth it!

  1. Nurture your mind.

As an individual, I LOVE to read. But as a writer, I NEED to read. For me, devouring books and penning dope writing go hand in hand. Reading keeps my mind sharp, helps me focus, and continually enriches my vocabulary. Most importantly, reading engages the thoughtful, curious dreamer within. I need that dreamer to create; feeding her with literature keeps her at the surface. Reading less than 25 books annually is unacceptable, and reading 50 is the goal.

  1. Protect your gift.

My creative drive and way with words result from nature and nurture. However, I still generally speak of them as a gift. The gift is precious and must be handled with care. I fiercely guard it now. This means avoiding the mental and intellectual detritus that would degrade my thoughts and creative capacity. So, there are topics and subjects I avoid altogether or limit my consumption. My writing quality takes a hit when I allow my mind to engage in mediocrity or mundane conversations. My creativity is my baby, and I am unapologetic about defending it.

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A native Seattleite and East Coast transplant, I have been interested in politics, religion, and race from the day I saw “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” on the bookshelf belonging to my BFF’s mom back in 1991. While my zealotry has thankfully diminished with maturity, I remain the deep thinking, passionate, and humble woman I have always been.

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