On Writing

Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic

My personal writing routine centers around creating at least 500 words of thoughts and reflections everyday. This could be fiction, poetry, a chat-story, or just drabbles.

Writing comes natural and I enjoy it. However, those 500 words of fiction writing provide a challenge. Think of writing with your non-dominant hand; the letters scrawl out, but they may not be easy to read.

I am a professional writer of non-fiction, and even though it consists of words, fiction takes work. Putting up a word count of 2,000 words of non-fiction takes little effort. Of course, most of those words focus on how-to, technical, and specialty writing.

For fiction I have found I need a new way of thinking. Which takes me to my topic of Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.

These topics took center stage in our K-12 learning. They were what the teacher started off with in the grade school classes, and then there were specialized classes in high school and college. Sometimes they made sense. Other times, they were a mishmash. The first two subjects – Reading and Writing – came pretty easy. Math ended up being my weak point. So, I’ll start with Reading and Writing.

writing adviceReading – Learning to identify patterns, techniques, plots, and story elements come from reading. Read as much as you can. I think the best writers spend more time reading than writing. Reading sparks ideas for your writing. For instance, the other day I was reading a technical article on generating oxygen on Mars. The article centered on making rocket fuel so Martians could get to Earth. I thought about terraforming; using oxygen to create an atmosphere. And if you could create oxygen, you could probably mix in other gases.

Reading helps you learn creativity. For instance, in poetry there are forms for verse, syllable, and rhyme. Most of these you need to learn by reading before you attempt to write them. A mystery has certain elements a writer must include. Now, you can learn about these various forms by studying the patterns, or you can learn them by reading. The creative spark comes through when a writer reads a novel, poem, or short story from start to finish. They start to see what the writer was attempting or the turns needed to get to the final denouncement. Basically, you can learn the various forms, but you don’t really understand them until you see the inspiration behind the words.

writing adviceWriting – Papa Hemingway used to say you had to just write with no stopping whatever came into your head. And then throw it away. Sort of like running oil through an engine, a writer must lubricate the keyboard to get everything moving. Now, I tend to think some of that literary lubrication can be saved. But if it is good enough, you’ll come back to it again. Like reading, writing must be done everyday. You have to put the words down on paper, or screen, so they can lead you to other paragraphs.

And try different forms. I try a different style of writing when I am practicing to give me the courage to break the rules. You can’t stick to just one style because it will become rote. Practice foreign ways to set up a story so you will have the confidence to try different styles when it counts. You may not like how the story is going. That is fine, because you will soon now how you like to write. Just mix it up so you have a reason to write everyday.

writing adviceArithmetic – You are on your own here. I know how to find a word count. And I remember the PEDMAS formula so I can do those fun math quizzes that stump others. I learned statistics because it’s the best way to catch someone in a lie. But I couldn’t spend time on algebraic equations because I don’t have the patience. Besides, I’m a writer, what do I need math for. (Oh yeah, those paychecks for word count.)

Diving into brain science, working a math equation, or puzzle, helps with your creativity. You use a different side of your brain, which causes you to jump out of your writing orientation and into problem solving. This is perfect for anyone trying to think up a new plot point.

So, yes, even math has its use to a writer.

Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic all form the basics of education. You really need all three to discover better ways to build a story, express yourself, and collect a paycheck. Build upon them to become a better writer.

© 2018 – 2019, Michael Shawn Sommermeyer. All rights reserved.

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