Many of my writer friends are “academic” writers: teachers and students of writing at high schools, colleges, and universities. Others are professionals in newspaper and television writing. I am not. I simply write to live and live to write. Writing has always been my primary and most effective means of communication.
In college, I did study poetry and other forms of literature as an English major and Psychology minor. These studies culminated in a career as a STEM copy editor, where my understanding of language in general (and Latin and French, in particular), attention to grammar and spelling, and interest in the etymology of scientific terminology enabled me to edit a wide range of scientific publications.
In my personal life, however, my inclination has been to write in an expository, narrative style, in both prose and poetry, not just to tell a story, but to uncover its deeper, human meaning. Until recently, especially in writing poems, I would follow any germ of an idea that interested me until I could extract whatever I could from it. Lately, though, I’ve been learning to respond to “prompts” or to specific topics. I experiment more with popular forms: acrostic and ekphrastic poems, haiku, and the like. Some forms I avoid—formal rhyme or verse schemes (e.g., sonnets and sestinas)—because they seem too “complex” or formulaic for my aging brain to follow. That’s not to say that I’ll never try them; I just can’t handle them right now. Mostly, I’m learning to “never say never.”
As for my actual writing process, it has changed dramatically over the last six years. I used to write everything longhand, then type it on my computer or tablet. In 2019, I bought a large notebook in which I wrote all my first drafts. I even kept track of which ones made it to publication on the blog or elsewhere. In 2020, I began to use my cell phone to write first drafts, emailing them to myself so I could complete them later.
Editing my own writing for wordiness and other problems is one new habit. I’m more likely to use a thesaurus or dictionary to do so. Another habit is seeking second readings by writers I respect and admire, especially when I have doubts about whether a piece hits the mark I’m aiming for. Sometimes, I will share such work within one of my writing groups or even post it on the blog, indicating that it’s a work in progress. I’ve even reworked blog posts and casual Facebook posts into saleable articles. I read more articles about writing, these days, to broaden my knowledge and perspective. One of the best lessons I learned from these readings is that there are no rules, no sure-fire methods to become a “great” writer. So, when it comes down to it, I trust my own voice and tend not to get caught up in writing classes, per se.
Most importantly, I take more chances, submitting more work to different publications. The feedback I get from rejections as well as acceptances teaches me a great deal about what I need to improve.
Edit yourself more;
Read other writers’ work;
Keep an open mind.