WARNING: If you hate self-indulgence and pretentiousness, feel free to skip this post.
Earlier this week, I was at a friend’s house, and I showed her this site. After perusing it for a while, snickering at my mockery of those who don’t see the iPad as a creational tool, she looked up and said:
“The way you write, Steve, you’re working in the wrong profession.”
Okay, so that’s probably not exactly what she said, but it’s pretty close. The point is, she (along with countless others) commended me on my writing skills. It’s ego-boosting and humbling at the same time. In any case, I know I’m a better person for it. I don’t know if my writing talents are due to innate ability or craft -- though, much to the chagrin of every English teacher I’ve ever had, I’ve never much cared for the proper, academic approach to writing. That is to say, I don’t:
- write outlines
- write rough draft upon umpteenth rough draft
- have others beta-read my works before final release
- write in a word processor such as Word or Pages
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always taken the lazy man’s approach to my writing: I take it seriously, to be sure, but I find the rigor of the prim and properness surrounding the “rules” of writing to be bullshit.1 I mean, it’s not that I don’t know how to do these things -- I paid attention in Freshmen English -- it’s just that I can’t write that way. My brain is wired differently. So what do I do? Well, I typically write my papers a day or two before they’re due. I’ll conjure up some ideas in my head, mentally lay everything out, and start writing. One draft, nothing more, nothing less. I’ll tweak and re-tweak as needed, but more often than not, what I write initially is what gets turned in. Copy editors and English teachers the world over may cringe at the rebel nature of my workflow, but I make no apologies for it. This is just how I roll.
Actually, more specifically, this is how I roll:
- Launch my writing app of choice, Byword.
- Write my blog post/essay in plain text. I add Markdown code for Web publishing.
- Edit as needed.
- Use ⌘-C and ⌘-V to copy/paste text into Pages for rich text/MLA/APA formatting.
Of course, since I’m my own worst enemy, I wonder if my journalistic successes are a matter of skill or luck or both. (Family and friends say it’s skill, but they’re biased, you know.) Especially in college, the papers I’ve written have all been met with essentially the same acclaim: Steven, you’re a really good writer. i consistently get As and Bs on my work, and always feel that rush of nervous anticipation as I wait for my grade (with comments) to come back. Again, despite my seemingly “lazy” approach to writing, I take it very seriously and take a lot of pride in what I produce, whether it be a formal piece or a blog post.
The biggest reason for why I write so well, I think, is the fact that I love to write. I’m certainly not one of those people who finds writing to be boring, tedious, uninspiring work. On the contrary, I love it; it’s a major reason why I started this site. To me, writing is therapeutic: it allows me to free my mind and express myself in the medium that suits me best. Aside from being therapy, though, that I choose to write on my own volition for pleasure helps to keep my skills sharp, because, for as confident as I am in my abilities, I’m not so arrogant to think that I’m beyond the realm for improvement. I’m always willing to work on being more succinct, less verbose, and better at using pronouns. I’m constantly looking to improve my work, even after I’ve turned a piece in and gotten a 95 on it. More than that, I find myself silently critiquing other people’s works, often lamenting how this or that could be better. I know I’m a writer at heart when I take things so critically, because it tells me that I genuinely care about my craft. Reading articles like this helps too.
As for my friend’s advice, I’m unsure as to how I’d integrate my writing talents in my field of Early Childhood. After all, writing IEPs and doing assessments aren’t exactly the paragons of prose. One of my co-workers suggested I become a grant writer, but since doing a little research, that seems too formal and rigid for my tastes. On the bright side, though, I can at least take comfort knowing that I’m capable of churning out a helluva parent newsletter every month.
I guess winning that Young Authors contest in Kindergarten was no fluke.
That isn’t to say the rules are “bad”, per se; they just don’t work for me. If it helps you, dear reader, to outline and rough draft until your head explodes, then by all means, knock yourself out. ↩