One of the best things about one-year olds just learning words? You can teach them to say things that make you laugh. Jules has mamama, dadda, dayeeezeee!, and sihsih (Sydney) down. And now she has added a rascally little roar to her vocabulary. We say, "Jules! Roar!" and she gets a huge smile, opens her mouth wide, and a little baby tiger comes romping from her vocal chords. It's so endearing. Along with her knack for sleeping through the night and eating whatever I feed her. She's a keeper.
And speaking of roaring, the lovely and wondrous Sam (whose Tuesdays are the best because she posts photos of Thomas, whose cheeks are so kissable!) has passed along the ROAR! for Powerful Words award to me, which means I need to list three writing tips.
It's a funny thing about writing tips. Because, you know, I actually have a degree in Writing Tips (except those academic snobs call it something like Language Arts Education). And yet...obviously, I still have lots to learn about writing. Fortunately, I like being in that position. Learning about writing is one of my most favorite things to do. That, and listen to Jules roar.
A word of clarification about these tips: I'm thinking more in terms of writing for an audience and developing your process of writing rather than just tips on where to begin to write. Other ROAR! recipients have given great suggestions in this latter field, so I thought I'd try a different take on it. I don't mean to imply that there needs to be some process to writing in order to engage a reader (I have always loved that Marilyn writes with few edits (and has such a remarkable voice through her writing), and engages the reader without any thought to process). Just that, for me, my best writing is definitely something I labor over.
- Be stylish: One thing I like to remember is that writing appeals to the visual and auditory senses. For the visual side, try to have a variety of sentence and paragraph lengths. I make use of one sentence paragraphs, and even one word sentences. Especially when I'm writing on the Internet, I make a concerted effort not to have long paragraphs because it's hard on the eyes. For the auditory side, I use parallel structure and repetition, almost to a fault. This helps with the rhythm of a piece, how it sounds and what emotions I want to evoke.
- Be fearless: Fear can cripple you as a writer. I could always write about sunshine and daisies, or I can be honest. For some people, being honest is sunshine and daisies; for me, honesty is writing about the sunshine and the clouds, the laughter and the depression, the love and the trials. The focus of my writing is what comes from my life, be it backyard projects, a delicious meal, a parenting moment, or the fact that I take Zoloft. I know I make some family members uncomfortable with my transparency regarding depression, but I write about it anyway.
- Be inspired. Don't be afraid to use writing techniques from other writers. Even though I'm a big fan of reading novels, the writers who influence my style the most are those who write for magazines and blogs--probably because I aspire to be a columnist rather than being a novelist. Being an avid reader can only help improve your writing, unless you're reading Russian novels, in which case that won't help you at all. Even if you don't read (which is so sad!), your life is full of stories that are worth writing about. Even breakfast can be inspiring!
Here's the short list of columnists I love the most:
- Peter Fish who writes for Sunset magazine is amazing with his travel pieces. I love the way he uses punctuation, and I am more aware of how I use dashes and colons thanks to him.
- Maggie Mason is a great one for capturing conversation snippets. Her posts are rarely long, but usually smile worthy.
- Bill Simmons (aka The Sports Guy) writes for ESPN magazine, and I love his wit and humor. Believe it or not, even if Jason wanted to cancel his subscription to ESPN I wouldn't do it. I'm addicted to sports columnists.
- The girls over at Go Fug Yourself are snarky as all get out, and there's a good argument to be made against fashion writers. But I have learned many tricks of the humor writing trade from these ladies. Plus, they have a great conversational tone to their writing that I find interesting and entertaining.
- Above all, however, the one who has influenced my writing about parenting the most is Catherine Newman. While she is more melancholy than I am, I am in love with the way she captures the lives of her children. I'm inspired every time I read her.
As for other writers I'd love to hear roar?
- Gretchen from Lifenut
- Jen from Jen's Page
- Heather from Fumbling for Words
- Inkling of Small Inklings
- Amanda the London Southern Belle
That concludes the writing-in-progress experiment. I don't usually have multiple drafts for a piece, but for this one I tried to capture the moments when I was thinking about what I would be adding by getting on the computer. It was definitely an exercising in being fearless, because you know I'd much rather you believed all the right words came out, organized and coherent the first time :)