I scour the universe to find amazing morsels of knowledge so that I can share them with the multitudes and thereby raise the intelligence level of all mankind. Some call it stumbling across trivia about writing, and posting it in people’s way just to be irritating. Whatever.
But you can always benefit from other people’s thoughts. At least I can, because that way I don’t have to do all that thinking myself, and I’m lazy. And it’s always possible you’re bored and need distraction. I’m here for you either way.
So I came across this blog post by James Altucher the other day. In case he stumbles across this post some day, I apologize to you, Mr. Altucher, for not having a clue who you were until then. On the other hand, you still don’t know who I am, so fair’s fair. I now know that he’s an author and entrepreneur and hedge fund manager and a whole lot of other things, and after sifting through his website a bit, I’ve determined that he’s smart and fair-minded and it’s apparent he’s known by pretty much the whole world except me. Being a basic cave-dweller, I’m okay with that.
He has lots of thoughts. This particular group of them is full of points to ruminate on if you’re a writer, because it’s all about becoming a better one. It’s good to look at what you do from a fresh perspective now and then, to help you get out of your rut and shake up your paradigms a little, and these are certainly different ways of examining the process. They aren’t all new and different, but there are some different ways of illustrating them in here, and a stroll through the list is entertaining and enlightening. Not everything will help, of course, but it’s all worth looking and considering.
Take a look. Consider. Stretch your mind. Be a better writer.
33 Unusual Tips to Being a Better Writer
by James Altucher
Back in college, Sanket and I would hang out in bars and try to talk to women but I was horrible at it.
Nobody would talk to me for more than thirty seconds and every woman would laugh at all his jokes for what seemed like hours.
Even decades later I think they are still laughing at his jokes. One time he turned to me, “the girls are getting bored when you talk. Your stories go on too long. From now on, you need to leave out every other sentence when you tell a story.”
We were both undergrads in Computer Science. I haven’t seen him since but that’s the most important writing (and communicating) advice I ever got.
A) Write whatever you want. Then take out the first paragraph and last paragraph
Here’s the funny thing about this rule. It’s sort of like knowing the future. You still can’t change it. In other words, even if you know this rule and write the article, the article will still be better if you take out the first paragraph and the last paragraph.
B) Take a huge bowel movement every day
You won’t see that on any other list on how to be a better writer. If your body doesn’t flow then your brain won’t flow. Eat more fruit if you have to.
C) Bleed in the first line
We’re all human. A computer can win Jeopardy but still not write a novel. If you want people to relate to you, then you have to be human.
Penelope Trunk started a post a few weeks ago: “I smashed a lamp over my head. There was blood everywhere. And glass. And I took a picture.” That’s real bleeding. My wife recently put up a post where the first line was so painful she had to take it down. Too many people were crying.
D) Don’t ask for permission
In other words, never say “in my opinion” (or worse “IMHO”). We know it’s your opinion. You’re writing it.
E) Write a lot
I spent the entire 90s writing bad fiction. 5 bad novels. Dozens of bad stories. But I learned to handle massive rejection. And how to put two words together. In my head, I won the pulitzer prize. But in my hand, over 100 rejection letters.
F) Read a lot
You can’t write without first reading. A lot. When I was writing five bad novels in a row I would read all day long whenever I wasn’t writing (I had a job as a programmer, which I would do for about five minutes a day because my programs all worked and I just had to “maintain” them). I read everything I could get my hands on.