Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Do Good Writing Skills = Good Writing?

Recently I was forced to ask myself this question: Do good writing skills equal good writing? What prompted the question was a blog I read from a writer who reached into my soul and tugged at my heart so completely, I found myself immersed in the spirit of her words. Because of her writing, I began to notice the emotional impact of other writers and of myself.

For so many years, I had been concentrating on perfecting the art of writing to the point where I had put myself on a pedestal of sorts, basking in the knowledge that I had the best instructors guide me along this path. Don't get me wrong – I make mistakes – lots of them, but sometimes I think I depend so much on the technique of writing that I ignore the heart of writing.

I remember when the Beatles first came out. I was in grammar school when more than one teacher mentioned the improper English spoken by the Fab Four. Yes, I noticed. Ever the perfectionist even then, I noticed that their subjects and verbs didn't always agree. But did it matter? Not in the least. The strong emotional connection I felt with the Beatles and their music was enough. It was more than enough. At the time it was nearly everything.

Several years ago I met a man whose life revolved around his guitar playing. He wanted me to write his biography and in it he wanted me to call him a "Guitar God." I refused, and not because his guitar playing didn't rival that of even the best guitarists – it did – the man was technically perfect.

But he was missing something. Though he could imitate Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Eric Johnson, and other "guitar gods" with perfection, he somehow missed that soul connection with his audience. With mechanical perfection and timing, he wowed other guitarists and audiences with his technical precision. But he couldn't pick the heartstrings of his listeners.

I see that same problem with writers. Technically perfect in their presentation, they concentrate so much on the mechanics of writing that they can't connect with an audience. Maybe we have all been guilty of that practice at times. I know I have been.

Like the woman who wrote the blog that touched me in so many ways, writers want that kind of connection with their readers. We want to engage our audience in powerful ways. We want our readers (or viewers in the case of movies and television shows) to laugh, to cry, to FEEL.

As with any art form, the artist strives for perfection, but the perception of the recipient is what matters most. Maybe we don't need that perfect voice, just the one that resonates with our readers and our viewers. Writers who manage to touch us in those ways have that magical quality of reaching right through us where they either tickle our funny bones, ignite us with passion, or pull on our hearts so hard they pull the tears right out of our eyes. 

And that's when the magic happens.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

"Do this. Don't do that. Can't you read the signs?" by Les Emmerson from the Five Man Electrical Band

Signs – traffic signs, safety signs, stop signs, parking signs, street signs, astrology signs, the movie, Signs, even psychological signs (as in red flags) – are everywhere. Signs warn, inform, and guide us, pointing us in the right direction, alerting us that we are arriving at our destination, or informing us that we have lost our direction.

Children learn shapes using signs. Quick – which sign is octagonal? And by the time they reach driving age, our children learn to pay attention to signs, because signs mean something.

Once we learn them, messages from those signs reside in our subconscious, so that when we see a Yield sign, we respond by paying attention to traffic around us. We respond because by not responding, we might suffer some serious consequences.

Imagine for a moment a world filled with YOUR signs. What might that world look like? How would YOU warn traffic to stop? How would you caution your employees to be careful around hazardous materials? 

And what if – since our subconscious acts upon recognized signs – we were to post our own custom signs in our home? Every day, upon awakening, we would feel energized and organized as we begin our days filled with expectations and possibilities.

We might also post signs in our kitchens reminding kids to clean up after themselves or in the bathroom to alert little boys (and big boys) to lift the seats and wash their hands.

In my home I'd like to see, "JOYFUL Moments Ahead!" "Energy Zone!" and "REFLECT" to kickstart my day. What signs would you like to see in hour home?

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Excellent Editing Advice

Today I came across two articles to help writers with the editing process. The first article, How to Edit Your Own Writing, allows you to take whatever you've written through some necessary editing steps that will polish your work and make it shine.

The second article, 50 Redundant Phrases to Avoid, provides even more valuable information. You could be committing these writing sins without ever knowing it!

I highly recommend both articles!

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