The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Emma Philbrook
the Times 

More unsolicited advice from Emma


April 30, 2020

Courtesy photo

Your new hobby-writing!

Finals are very nearly upon me, and I find it increasingly hard to talk or think about anything else. But given that you folks have enough stress in your lives at the moment, I figured I'd expand last week's unsolicited-gardening-advice column into a three-part series of unsolicited-advice pieces for those looking to try something new during quarantine. Did anybody ask for it? No. That's the whole point.

This week's topic is writing. I think it's fair to say that most of us have had an idea for a writing project at one point or another, whether it's a family history, a how-to guide, or the next blockbuster novel. In any case, now is quite literally the perfect time to start. Unlike other popular quarantine hobbies, writing doesn't require that you fight off other hobbyists to get your hands onto supplies. In fact, it doesn't require anything that you don't already have at home. And speaking from personal experience, it's a terrific way to take your mind off your present problems. (Why do you think I'm writing this instead of studying?) With that in mind, here's a few tips and tricks to help you get started:

Once you have an idea, let it stew in your head for a couple days. Brainstorm on scrap paper. Work out the basic structure of the finished product. Bounce ideas off your family. This has the dual effect of giving you enough material to start writing with and getting you wound up enough about the idea that you'll start writing with a vengeance. (As a bonus, you may even annoy your family enough that they'll give you some peace and quiet to write in!)

Set yourself a daily word count or page quota. If you don't have much else on your plate, 1000 words or two single-spaced pages a day is a nice challenge. You can adjust your goal up or down depending on what your life is like, but once you find something workable, stick with it.

Your first draft doesn't have to be perfect. It doesn't have to be anywhere close to perfect. If it vaguely resembles a finished product and contains all the information/events you want to convey to your reader in roughly the order you want to convey them in, it has done its job.

Once you've finished a first draft, put it away for a bit. Write something else for a few weeks. Then, when you come back and make edits, it'll be like criticizing someone else's book. (We've all done that, right? It's pretty easy.)

After your second draft's done, give it to a friend or family member, preferably one whose ear you haven't been talking off about your fabulous new book/story/play. Ask them for their honest feedback. (Those of you who are feeling particularly confident in your end product can opt to seek out a friend or family member who will actually give honest feedback.)

Publication does not have to be your end goal. Some of the most fun projects I've ever done have been fictional adventures starring my friends and family – not great literature or even the sort of thing I'd be willing to let other people read. (So don't ask.) The point is that (a) I enjoyed myself thoroughly and (b) I got to practice the same skills that go into more "serious" writing endeavors.

Above all, keep in mind that writing is a bit like getting water from a faucet – you have to keep it going for a while if you want the good stuff. You may or may not produce a masterpiece on your first try, and that's okay. The point is to have fun, build your skills, and give yourself a little break from this wild, wild world we live in.


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