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“Writing that matters is writing that changes someone or something.”
“We use too many words sometimes.”
“If we want to write words that matter, we have to stop being attached to all our words and learn how to take the ones out that don’t mean as much.”
“There is a ruin in a flood of empty words.” (Ecclesiastes 5:7)
Writing words that matter.
How often do my words really matter? Sure, they matter to me – but do they matter enough to make an impact? Is my message ever diluted because of the quantity of my words?
These thoughts were already on my mind after reading a series of posts by Dana Butler about this very issue. Here are some excerpts:
All good writing is re-writing. ALL. of. it. This made me so frustrated when I first heard it from Jeff Goins. But if you’re throwing up blog posts that are written quickly, under pressure, with little-to-no editing or trimming (like I was)? Then what you’re producing is less than your best. Guaranteed. (About Writing: Connecting the Dots Between the Technical and the Spiritual)
There is such a thing as “wasting your readers’ time.” Ouch. I struggled with this idea. How could any form of honest expression of my heart be a waste of my readers’ time? But truly, we all have a bazillion blogs clamoring for our attention. Consistently trying to keep my writing tight and to-the-point is like saying to my readers: “I get that your time is valuable. I value your readership and your presence in my space.” If readers know I value their time, they’re a lot more likely to be frequenters of my space. More likely to receive what I have to say. (About Writing: Connecting the Dots Between the Technical and the Spiritual)
Practice. On the piano, if I practice scales and technique, I’m more fluent and free to play whatever my heart feels. Writing practice is the same. I’ve practiced technique. Hammered out grammar. Sentence structure. [The more you’re intentional to get all this technical stuff right, the freer you’ll be to actually BREAK “rules” at times for the sake of staying true to your voice.] Get feedback from someone more experienced. Practice writing with pen and paper. Do free-write exercises. And this is KEY: Don’t hold back. Practice exploring your depths as you free-write. Honing your technique and exploring your deepest heart in a “practice” setting will free you to be more fully you when it’s the real deal and your audience is watching–er, reading. (On Uncovering Our Writing Voice and Being In Process)
As an avid blog reader, I’m realizing that even I gravitate toward more succinct posts. In the past I couldn’t be bothered to cut words because I didn’t want to be a people-pleaser in my writing. But now I realize I have the responsibility to be a good steward my readers’ time.
Like Dana, I have a background in music composition and have made parallels between the two in a previous post. I used to spend hours painstakingly practicing my techniques and editing my songs to deepen the harmonies and make sure each note, each phrase, had the exact timing and musical coloring that I wanted.
Unfortunately with writing, I’ve been far too focused on the finished posts. I’ve been so eager to see the hit count rise that my habit has been to slap words haphazardly onto the screen and send it out for the world to read – all in one sitting. There have been no such things as drafts, no real practice other than the sheer volume of regular writing.
To take the music analogy a little further: I’ve been working hard to publish finished works – completely ignoring the value of hard practice and snippets scrawled on scraps of staff paper. I’ve forgotten that some of my best songs simmered in my head for years before ever being heard by another.
I want and need that to change.
I attended an Allume session “Publishing and Working With a Literary Agent.” D.C. Jacobson & Associates shared that publishers and agents look for a three-legged stool of the following elements:
- Craft: writing ability, a unique voice, studying the rules of writing and knowing when and how to break them
- Concept: a big idea, a fresh angle
- Crowd: your platform
I’m not writing a book anytime soon. This session was big in confirming that for me:
While I have two possible book ideas (concept), my small platform (crowd) is not even close to industry recommendations for successful publishing. While I could take steps to grow my platform, I don’t feel like that is where my efforts should be focused right now.
Improving my writing, however, is something I can do right now. I’ve heeded these words – taken them on as a challenge to hone this craft.
I need to write more: the kind of raw writing that comes out when there’s no publish button ready to hit, no readers waiting to read. The kind of writing scrawled in notebooks while I watch my son play at the park or while I’m cuddled up in bed before falling asleep.
I need to edit more: let my words simmer before putting them out to read. Cut the unnecessary and redundant that I might not even notice until the fourth or fifth reading. Recognize and utilize the power in the draft.
I need to publish less: so that when I do hit the publish button, it will be with much more intention after much more thought and hard work.
To read more about my Allume experience, please check out my conference landing page: