January 21, 2009 Writing--How to get started
Yesterday, I encouraged Joan to go for that writing class, but I know that some of you who live far from the madding crowd as I do, may find that traveling an hour or more to take a class is prohibitive this time of year. So if you want to write, but you don't really know how to get started. Here are a few more things for you to think about:
First of all, try to narrow down the types of writing you'd like to do, and start focusing your reading in those areas and then your writing. Your local library (or bookstore) is a great source for discovery, so spend some time browsing the stacks and see what grabs your interest. Maybe it's mystery or romance, fantasy or science fiction. Maybe you find yourself drawn to the classic writers like Steinbeck, Vonnegut, Updike, Marilynne Robinson, Toni Morrison, to name a few. Maybe it's memoir or poetry. Or maybe you are drawn to non-fiction. Maybe it's writing for children! The important thing is to write about what you care about most.
Next, while you're still at the library (or bookstore), ask if there are any writing groups that you could join. If there isn't one, start one. You can post it to the library bulletin board or have it included in their newsletter if they have one. Be specific. If you want to write memoir or family stories, for example, be sure to put that in your posting. It doesn't mean that you can't have writers with other interests in your group, but it's probably what will be most satisfying and helpful for the group as a whole. I've always liked small groups myself of not more than three or four other writers, simply because trust is built more quickly and everyone has time to share in a time frame of two or three hours. Plan a time and place to meet that's at least once a month. If you're a new group with members not actively writing on a regular basis, assign short writing exercises of character sketches or paragraphs of description, anything that will get words on paper. If you'd like guidelines for starting a writing group, shoot me an e-mail and I'll send you a file all about that: firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, like everything else, good writing takes practice, practice, practice. No one expects you to be accomplished the first time you attempt to play an instrument. Writing is the same. So read read, read, focusing on the sorts of books or articles or poetry that you'd like to write. Reading will inspire and stimulate your writing. Then write. And Write. And do not give up. Metaphors be with you! Tomorrow, I'll post a list of books on the craft of writing!