On Writing – Part 1

Photo Glenn Carstens Peters on Unsplash.com

I used to think that writers were born with ‘it.’

I used to think that if I wrote something or even (gasp!) published it online somewhere, that it had better be perfect!

I used to think that to excel at writing I had to read all the ‘How-To’ books on Amazon first.

Now I know better.

Some people might be ‘born with’ the potential to take writing further than others but that in no way precludes the possibility that writers can be made, or that almost everyone can learn to write.

I now see that good writing is actually better termed as ‘good rewriting.’ Editing is crucial to good stories. Almost none of my first drafts were near ready for public consumption. But after a few rounds of editing, they eventually go there. While I have written drafts that I felt were adequate in capturing my vision of the overall story structure, they all needed work on the sentences, paragraphs, spelling, grammar, and all the other things that can make a good story a great story! If there’s no idea behind the story, it will always be limited in how much it can shine. But if you have a solid workable idea, then it’s just a matter of polishing and working it until it shines. But not to overwork it either!

While I still love books (of all varieties) I now know that to be a writer the only thing that is truly required is to write. In the words of whatever advertising executive at Nike, you “just do it!” But we like the idea of easy advancement and ‘natural talent’ don’t we? We romanticize the prodigy and the genius. But no baby ran like Usain Bolt on their first attempts. Every baby, as far as I’ve heard anyway, first flailed, then crawled, then took their first shaky steps, then fell a bunch of times, then walked, fell some more, then ran. No baby tried to crawl and then in a disgusted fit of failure said “You know ma, I guess walking isn’t really my “thing.” I tried it but it just wasn’t a good fit!” The path of progression for a toddler (?) learning to walk is marked with failures. Lots of them in fact!

Just remember:

  1. Anyone can learn to write!
  2. It’s okay to not be great, good or even mediocre on your first attempts!
  3. The main thing is just do it, just write (and read!) as much as you can.


  1. Shawn, I’m just starting to find your writing, thanks to Craig, and am so glad you are pursuing this. Having recently viewed the Ken Burns’ program on Hemingway, it is tempting to ask how you would express story-telling’s debt to him. I will get back when I have read more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. John Gregory, thanks for your note and encouragement. A lot of what I’m doing currently is a Flash Fiction challenge. For one hundred days, my goal is to write, edit, publish a short story (usually 600 – 1200 words maximum) every day. So the quality isn’t always sterling. But I believe it’s a wonderful exercise to help develop writing muscles. Some of the stories I’ve created during this time, I think, can be polished and perhaps sold in a collection at some point, such is my goal at any rate.

      It’s interesting that you mention Hemingway. Yesterday’s story was a tribute to him. Clearly, it was inspired by HILLS LIKE WHITE ELEPHANTS. Though, perhaps I ought to reread that story. Maybe this is bordering on plagiarism?

      I am reading his short stories now and am stunned by how powerful his language is. Uncluttered, simplistic, but highly effective. There were passages in THE SHORT HAPPY LIFE OF FRANCIS MACOMBER, where I felt gripped by the throat.

      Here is my tribute to HEMINGWAY and to HILLS.



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