I’ve recorded my 12 Gifts for Writers as an audiobook, in separate chapters and as one big 64-minute binge-listen. It’s available now to everyone who sponsors me on Patreon at the $2-a-month level or higher, even for just one month! I’m making chapter 11 (“Everyone’s a writer”) free for everyone… just as a teaser. Here it is.
…Parking the car (smooth sleek shiny grey) in the heated, lit underground lot, though at least a good five-ten blocks away from my destination (I’d have to be lacking in intelligence to be parking it any closer: there are certain rules must abide by in these things), and out once again – though unprotected this time – into the night air (cold & misty) for a little bit of a walk: certainly conspicuous in this, as yer not likes to be finding much of too many anybody out on the streets this time of night (especially in this part of town) without a damn good reason: and if the Men in Pink happen to glance you, you will most certainly be inquired as to why wherefore where when what who you are doing out this time of night, which being the accurate nature of your business, and so on and so forth ad infinitum nauseum et cetera. Goes without saying this being my aim to avoid (perhaps one reason for choosing the darker shades in a suit for wear this eve?).
That bale of braided turds, my friends, is the start of a short story by a writer who’s trying to find his voice. I wrote it when I was 18. Continue reading →
Everybody writes. Did you just tweet something? Post on Facebook? Send a quick email? That’s all writing. It’s all using words. It’s all flexing your lexical muscle. Does it seem too small to count? It still builds up habits and uses your skills. It still displays them, too. Continue reading →
Writing involves facts and creation. You are expected to acquire the former and perform the latter; both are part of the job. The act of creation in writing is largely an act of selection, rearrangement, and re-presentation: showing a new way of seeing with not-new things. And don’t forget that it’s all a conversation – you’re making references to other people’s work as well as to well-known cultural elements (such as the twelve days of Christmas). Continue reading →
I’m sure you’ve heard that it takes 10,000 hours of doing something to become an expert at it. That’s oversimplified, of course; some things take more time to master than others, and some people take more time to master things than others do. Some people practice a thing relentlessly for years and still suck at it. But as a general truism, the more you do something, the better you get at it.
You probably learned in high school how to structure an essay: “Say what you’re going to say, say it, then say you’ve said it.”
For high school students, this is a reasonable instruction. It helps them learn to organize their thoughts instead of just pouring their stream of consciousness onto the paper. It also makes essays easier to grade.
Just in case you missed day one of these gifts for writers: You’re not in high school anymore. You can outgrow the high school rule. Your readers aren’t there to grade you. They’re there because of desire.Continue reading →
When you’re being paid to write something, you’re not the lone romantic protagonist doing everything yourself, expressing your true vision, et cetera, et cetera. You’re writing a thing that other people are going to read, and you want to make sure that they’ll be glad they’ve read it. I already told you this: It’s not about you, it’s about your readers.Continue reading →
One time a medical editor friend told me about being introduced to someone who was “a writer.” My friend asked what kind of writing she did: technical, medical, magazine articles, fiction? She said, and my friend quoted, “I write from the heart.”
I put my hand over my mouth and said, “Oh noooooooo.” My friend joined in.
I mean, I’m sure she has good feelings about it. But if you’re writing for other people, it’s not your heart that matters. It’s theirs.Continue reading →
Patrick Neylan, Eeditor of business reports. Permanently angry about the abuse of English, maths and logic. Terms and conditions: by reading this blog you accept that all opinions expressed herein will henceforth be your opinions.
The Economist "Johnson" language blog
In this blog, named for the dictionary-maker Samuel Johnson, correspondents write about the effects that the use (and sometimes abuse) of language have on politics, society and culture around the world