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The Writer’s Garden

27 Apr

It’s that time of the year to get out in the garden, and I’ve been doing just that. We put in a huge vegetable garden this spring, and, at least from what I’ve been told, in the first year, a garden has a lot more grass and weeds with which to contend. I hope this is just a first season thing, because there is a LOT of grass coming up between the vegetable plants. I don’t know about you, but when I’m in the midst of a boring, time-consuming, tedious chore, my mind wanders.  Yesterday it meandered into the realm of my next post.

Gardening has much in common with writing. It’s hard work. Both start with a blank canvas which will be filled with creativity. Both begin with loads of hope for a stunning outcome. When someone starts a garden, he plants more seeds than will ever be needed in actual plants. A writer does the same thing with words. At first, the words are spread liberally across the page. The idea requires time and space to develop. So the writer and the gardener go about their work – planting seeds and thoughts and expectations.

Then comes weeding. Weeding is not most gardeners’ or writers’ favorite activity, but it is vital to the life of the work. Plants that are growing where they’re not wanted are weeds.  They grab the nutrients from the soil which the desired plants thrive upon. Extra words and unclear phrases are exactly like unwanted plants . They obscure the beauty that is sometimes hidden among them. They get in the way of communication. They clutter up the page and make it messy.  So, they need to be plucked. In the case of my vegetable patch, most of the weeds are grass. Now grass is a perfectly acceptable plant. It’s beautiful and functional, but I don’t want it crowding out my okra and my zucchini. There is usually nothing inherently wrong with most words. But sometimes, a word is not the best word. A phrase is not the clearest phrase. A sentence does little to further the idea.  So, out it goes.

The next stage is stepping back and surveying the whole. When one is picking out small unwanted growth and unneeded words, the focus is very nearsighted. To gauge the whole requires moving a bit away, in order to see the big picture. This is where the eyes and the mind do most of the work. An outsider might see no work at all, but he would be mistaken. The writer reads the piece to look for flow and meaning. The gardener looks for stray plants or signs of disease or dryness. Both practitioners access the fruit of their labors and determine what more is needed to bring harmony to their creation.

I know I have a great deal of more plant editing to do before I can even think about enjoying my first taste of vine ripened tomato. And just like in the garden, a successful article or post or chapter necessitates many more words being  thrown out than are kept in the finished piece. Hopefully, in the end, the writer and the gardener  reap an abundant harvest, and both decide to make their work into a regular habit.

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Writing in the Real World

20 Apr
art of writing

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say. ~Anaïs Nin

I wonder what the percentage of lead characters in novels and in movies are writers. I’ll bet it’s one of the more popular professions in the fictional world. Being a writer seems like an easy job. On the screen, they hardly ever show the writer writing. He or she is usually busy receiving the accolades from adoring fans about a piece that is already written and published, or the scene shows the excitement of beginning the quest for information. But they hardly ever show the actual writing. That’s because actually writing is never as pretty as thinking about writing, or getting an idea to write about, or having written. It is the crucial step, though. Thinking about writing does not make one a writer. And one can’t reap the rewards of a well-crafted piece without the writing of it.

Writers usually don’t look their best while writing. They look a little daft and unkempt, truth be told. When I’m writing, I generally haven’t put on makeup or combed my hair. I talk out loud to myself throughout the whole process. And a good portion of the time is spent doing no writing at all, but thinking deeply while performing an inordinate number of facial expressions. I wouldn’t pay to watch that.

Writing seems sexy. It seems interesting. It seems rewarding and challenging and exciting. But that’s the fictional version. Writing in the real world is often tedious and under appreciated and poorly compensated. Writing in the real world takes way more time than most people would imagine. Most of real writing is editing. Most real writing is thrown out in a quest to make it better. Most real writing is pretty lonely work.

But having written, and written well…

That’s another story.

Know Your Audience

10 Apr

Know Your Audience
By Linda Ricke

In today’s environment of internet blogging, where a post can travel across the world in a matter of seconds, a writer does not always know who will be reading his work. Back in the day, when print was the main medium, it was easier to determine who the reader was.

It is just as crucial for the writer of today to figure out to whom he is targeting his message. Wordsmiths cannot say all things to all people, and the sooner one faces this fact, the more quickly he will gain a loyal following.

This is not to say that writers can only have one audience for their work. By all means, write for different people. For example, if someone is writing a piece for parents of young children, he might decide on topics about potty training and play groups, keeping in mind that his readers are likely to be sleep-deprived and seeking a voice of experience or solidarity in a time when childrearing can seem all-consuming. For an article geared towards parents of teenagers, he might talk about factors which should be considered when purchasing automobile liability coverage or how to handle the role of parenting a sexually active high school aged child. Both writers are writing for parents, but the audience is completely different.
If one is writing for personal reflection or spiritual matters, one would want to use lots of descriptive adjectives and write about feelings and emotions, paying particular attention to empathizing with his readers who are most likely dealing with similar issues in their own lives. If the audience is primarily twenty-somethings, it would be appropriate to use slang and trendy catch phrases. If one is writing for other writers, he could use terms like narrative drive and character development. If it is quilters whom one is trying to reach, it is important that one uses the correct terminology used by those who practice the craft.

A writer may not always know who is going to click onto his site, but if he decides ahead of time who is he is writing for, he can be much more successful in spreading his message, choosing the words appropriate to his target demographic.
Above all, write about what you care about. Write about what you know. Put yourself in your writing. And know for whom you are writing.

You can read more posts by Linda at lindaricke.wordpress.com and People For Others at loyolapress.com

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