Is the Art of Writing Dying?
Have you ever been told that you had an innate ability that you never pursued and regretted it?
I remember my school teacher telling me that I had a talent for writing and was able to craft a good story. But I ignored her gentle advice to follow it further. I either was too young and foolish or I didn’t believe her. Maybe both. For a long time that promise and purpose lay dormant.
It was a time of inkwells, quill pens and cursive writing. That era has long gone.
Often at the end of the school day the fingers were stained and the smell of ink was pervasive. Many times the shirt and uniform were marked by classroom pranks that involved thrown pens, tipped inkwells and flying objects. Mum must have wondered whether we were writing with the ink or swimming in it!
My mother was passionate about learning, spelling and the bright future that a good education promised. She made sure that I learned to write neatly and English homework was closely monitored and encouraged. As she was a stay at home mum we were always welcomed after walking home from school with a snack (often with freshly squeezed orange juice) and nudged to the desk to study.
It was nature with a lot of loving nurture.
It was 40 years later I rediscovered a love for writing that had lain dormant. It happened when I started this blog. That surprised me.
My first articles were stilted, stuttering but authentic. The words were wrangled and grammar was not perfect. Often the grammar police turned up, not to offer support but cast stones and laugh quietly. It’s not just the schoolyard that is cruel but the social web has it’s own quota of mockers and academic bullies.
I was told to hire a proofreader before hitting publish, but the web publishing world demands content and sometimes hitting publish is required. I learned that “done is better than perfect”
Many clapped from the sidelines. I was encouraged to continue.
From day one the writing was “conversational”. In a world that is escaping the formal from fashion to dining, the removal of the shackles of “proper” writing made it more fun. The academic purists didn’t have the monopoly on the art of writing anymore. I had discovered a new worldwide playpen.
I pressed on and after watching, reading and learning from distinguished and professional writers the craft became a little more polished. Books like Stephen King’s “On Writing ” provided insights. Other authors were observed including Stephen Pressfield and his book “The War of Art” and “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath.
I even learnt from car journalists of “Top Gear” fame. It is often 90% story and 10% car review that is narrated with mocking irreverence. Jeremy Clarkson is sometimes improper but you can’t accuse him of being boring.
These lessons included the application of some basic writing principles of rhythm, the rule of three and minimizing adverbs amongst others. Following these discoveries I stumbled upon structure, sub-titles and discovered “my voice“. This includes elements that display the unique you. Those “voice” building blocks start with showing your personality and humour and also exposing your imperfections and being willing to be vulnerable.
The next step
As the journey continued I was gaining in confidence and self published my first book “Blogging the Smart Way – How to Create and Market a Killer Blog with Social Media” in 2012. This required more learning as I juggled maintaining the blog and other commitments.
It meant writing an outline, discipline and teaching myself to publish on Amazon. That wasn’t all!
It also included:
- The big idea – Title to the book, which encapsulates the big idea.
- The contents – In other words the chapter headings.
- Design – This includes the cover, the internal design
- Formatting – Taking the book contents from a Word format to Mobi for Amazon, ePub for Apple ibooks or PDF format for selling on your own blog.
- Setting up the selling platform – This includes selling it on Amazon, Apple (or other online publishers) or on your own blog or website.
- Marketing your ebook – Now this means that you need to learn about digital marketing. This includes building an email list, optimizing for search engines and social media marketing on Facebook and Twitter.
It was worth it. Even if it was just from the self satisfaction of completion.
Is the web killing the craft of writing?
I have often heard over the last few years as the social web has emerged that technology and the world wide web will be the death of the craft of writing. People will stop writing and just tweet selfies and load photos onto Instagram. That they will just record YouTube videos and the written word will shrivel and wither away.
Traditional media companies and publishers have watched the rise of Kindle and Buzzfeed and also predicted the demise of quality journalism. Yes, there is some dumbing down online but that has also been part of the printed media for generations.
But writing isn’t going away anytime soon, it’s just evolving.
Writing for the web requires better use of subtitles, bullet points and numbering. The time poor nature of modern life means that simple and short are often needed to be implemented. The access to a global market in real time and the democratization of publishing are also providing opportunities for people who want to publish.
No longer do you have to beg permission from a publisher. Just write and publish it to Amazon!
There is one other thing. New technology is providing new tools for writers that makes them more efficient from the writing, right through to the publishing and marketing.
The new tools for writers
The pencil and pen was the tool of choice when you had no other options but today we have the computer, the tablet and even the smart phone. The keyboard has replaced the pen for many.
There are other tools like Scrivener and on top of that there is online training to help you learn these tools faster.
What about you?
Have you discovered writing because of the social web? Did blogging open up your eyes and mind to the power of the published online world?
Look forward to hearing more about your discoveries and insights in the comments below.