Monday, July 21, 2008

Living Well, Writing Well

mark debernardi at writers workspaceYou sit down there, you feel your brain is empty and you cannot write down a word. You wonder why some people have capability to depict an event so vivid as if you went through it by yourself; why they can describe people and situations so true that you even feel they knew you and they were talking about you.


Good writers care about life and they pay attention to things around them. Here comes my first suggestion: Live your life to the fullest. Put your heart and mind into daily life. Care people, nature, and activities around you. Seize every moment to explore the world. Feel everything around: the gentle breeze, the soothing moonlight, the flowers in the garden, and the flying birds, even the traffic, the pollution, and the natural disasters. Go to a concert. Go to museums. Go to a plantation. Go to Disney World. Don’t miss a thing. Observe and experience the world around you, you will find there are a lot of feelings, memories and thoughts in your mind; you have so much to tell, words flow out under your fingertips.


Think and meditate often. Have a meditation everyday, relax and think: what happened today; what I can learn from it. When good ideas and meaningful thoughts pop up, write down them quickly before you forget. It will build your wisdom and provide you plenty of ideas and thoughts in reserve. Live a truthful and confident life, think in a positive way. All the ups and downs, peaks and valleys, sunny days and rainy days can become writing material for you. After you understand every cloud has its silver lining, you can write an essay or a poem passionately even while you are in the dumps.


Your personal experience and knowledge is still not enough. Read widely to expand your view. Reading is a surefire way to build up your vocabulary, to expand your vision and to create your wealth of knowledge. What’s more, you can learn how to write well from good writers. Read Earnest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Anton Chekhov and all the other good writers. Read the bestselling, there must be a reason they are popular. When you read, not only focus on the information and the story, but also on the way of thinking and the style of writing. Read with a focus mind; memorize good lines which intrigue you. Emulate good writing style, until you are adequate enough to create your own style. As the Tang Poet Du Fu wrote, “Reading thousands of books, you can write magically.”


Put your heart and your passion into your writing. When people read your writings, they want to know you, know your personality, your individuality. Feel free to be yourself. Write with your heart; let your passion shine through your writings. Readers will feel your excitement, be captivated and follow your thoughts. Only heart can touch heart. When they are moved, they will remember not only your writings but also yourself. They will return to you again and again.


Content is the soul of a piece of writing, but the soul needs a fine way to show. Pay attention to structure and flow. Make your feelings, your stories and your points work together smoothly. When you write an essay, you can tell a story, and then make a point; or you can put your conclusion first, then give several examples to prove it; or you can just follow the classic five-paragraph format. Whatever way you choose, you have to grab the readers’ attention at the beginning, drive them to read through to the end.


Content is always the essence, form and style are supportive. What you say is important, how to say it is also important. Saying in the right way will surely enhance your idea; saying it in the wrong way will ruin your purpose. Writing techniques can be learned. To polish your writing, you can read published books which offer you a compendium of specific tips. I just got a copy of “The Elements of Style” by William Struck Jr. and E. B. White, which is highly recommended by a lot of writers. As they suggested, if you only have time to read one book about writing, read this one.


Writing is an important communication tool to express your opinions and feelings. Writing skills are critical for your success at school and at work. By deliberate practice, you can improve your writing skills and will not be daunted by a writing task anymore. You can enjoy the beauty to express yourself freely, to connect with people effectively and to influence people positively.

Published on Vita Issue 5, ASIAPAC Books.

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