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Writing Every Day

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”
― Robert Frost

Life does not stop or pause no matter what is happening in our personal lives. It goes on. It persists.

This is true too whether you have written or not. It passes with words on the page or not. It is up to you to decide whether you have committed your words and ideas to the page or whether you have left it blank.

This concept motivates me to write even when I don’t feel like doing it. It keeps me going back to the work day after day. I take comfort in knowing that each day sees more words or revised words or progress of some kind on my tiny contribution to craft.

I hope it motivates you too, because time will pass either way. You can have a finished manuscript or just an idea. You decide.

12 Non-Writing Fields Writers Should Study

Studying is an eternal state of being for writers. It’s our lifeblood--how we hone our craft and add depth to our work. As Gary Paulson says, “If you want to be a good writer, you’ve got to read like a wolf eats.” I believe that applies to studying too.

Luckily, there are many sources for reading and novels of all genres and types. Read the hard ones and the fun ones. Heck, even read the bad ones to learn what not to do. Then read nonfiction to inform your writing. There are tons of books on the craft of writing, and they are important. Growing as a writer means professional development, like any other field. Read those writing books, but don’t stop there. Study broadly.

Here are my top 12 to consider adding to your studies:

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Writing Without the Muse

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot lately. Why? Because it’s the season for hay fever, runny noses and itchy eyes. In other words, not a great time for me to be inspired. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective and the day), I don’t have the option of playing hooky. I have deadlines and clients who need the words whether I feel like writing or not.

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Story Is Everything

I love stories. I love immersing myself in them, be they books, movies or episodes from my favorite television shows. I don’t care. Heck, you can plop yourself beside me and spin a yarn. I’ll listen. I’m a story addict.

It’s so bad that my family teases me about getting caught up in movies and jumping, yelping and cringing. Once a little boy hit me during a scary movie because I scared him more than the monster on the screen—a bit of an embarrassment really, but one I won’t regret.

You see, that’s the hook for me—the ability to lose myself completely within the story, so engaged that I react to the story in a visceral way. I do it with tales that hold me, whether on the page or screen. It doesn’t matter as long as the story is good.

I want to be transported by what I am reading, watching and hearing. I long for that escape to a new life, not because my life lacks, but because it expands each time by my armchair adventures.

Stories allow me to stretch my life in all directions without limit. It makes me free to live a million lives with no boundaries. I can summit Everest or explore galaxies. I can survive hostile worlds and mingle with aliens. I can be a boy or a bear. Nothing is off-limits.

The catch is that the stories have to work. They have to contain enough details to create an illusion strong enough to feel real. When I worked at Disney, they called this “magic” and it was a firing offense to break that magic. It was one rule I believed in above all else and one that I still reach for when I write. It is deplorable to create something magical and then break the illusion.

It should also be a crime to tell a story that leaves your reader hanging.

I don’t care if you are writing a novel, an article or a speech, tell me a story that sings. Give me the details that will grab me. Don’t tell me why I should care about your character or even a widget you are selling—make me care about it. Make me see how it will change my life for the better. Capture my imagination so I can see myself using it.

You can do this by using active verbs, following narrative forms (no matter what your project) and by painting a scene that works.

Story is everything. In fiction and nonfiction alike. No matter what you are writing.

Tell a good story.