The Last Writing Guide You’ll Need

I’ve been asked a few times. So here it is.

I am not famous for this, for writing. I have just been at this long enough to know all the rules, but not long enough to know how to effectively break them all.

I’ve been around long enough to know that whatever you are looking for probably isn’t here.

Five tips for becoming a better writer. Because if it is going to happen, it is going to happen here: in a list, on the internet, delivered by someone you’re likely never going to read again.

1). Stop reading this. Stop reading anything like this. Five steps, five tips, fifty steps – the improvement doesn’t happen in the span of a list. It won’t occur in this list, and it won’t happen in the next one. Close all the windows. Close the laptop screen. Very little here can provide reasonable results. Grab a pencil (wooden, the kind you have to sharpen) and a pad of paper and start there. Write 1000 words there and then tear the sheets off and throw them in the fire. Then write another 1000. They will be similar, but better. To be safe, best burn those as well.

2). Do this in the dark. Do it away from people for as long as you can. Do it off the internet. Write in a way where no one will ever read it. Do it without likes or shares or a comments section. Write it out in a place where encouragement doesn’t exist. Then publish it on the Huffington Post and watch the words die.

3). Read. Extensively. Again – not here. Do not read lists of how to improve your writing. Read passages written on scraps of dead tree pulp. Books and newspapers are your friends. Read the people with opinions and styles which bug the hell out of you. The internet is full of a generation of writers who have learned to write from the questionable writing presented without filter or editorial on the internet.

4). Join a writers group. A real one. The kind where your flesh and blood sits across the table from someone who will look you in the eye and tell you that this isn’t’ your best work. There is no block button for this person because you are sitting around his kitchen table. Don’t bother with online writing groups or finding salvation through facebook. These groups are self-serving and will eventually try to sell you something. All the other writers there are usually just in it to get page views to whatever blog they link to. Refer back to #2.

5). Accept that this might not be for you. Accept that the act of writing things down for others to read is a psychotic and narcissistic endeavor that will leave you incapable of having a normal conversation in polite, mixed company. Consider the thousand and one other career paths that might be better suited. Maybe take up painting or tying flies. Maybe appreciate a deep breath of air without finding a thousand adjectives that describe what might be wrong with it.

If you have made it this far, then it will be easy to learn that writing is one of those stupid things that can be learned, coached, facilitated, but not taught. If you have made it this far, then you know that reading this and all the posts like it are a waste of time. If you have made it this far, then there is probably something you should be writing. Right now. Go. Do that.

Your pencils are sharp enough. Even the dull ones will make a mark.