I hesitate to call myself a writer. Because calling yourself a writer implies that it’s your profession. I have made some money, a very shameful low amount of money, by submitting my writing to Textbroker and I’ve had this blog for quite some time now. But writing has been more of a hobby than my main focus in life. A big hobby, but not something I would dare call a career.
Of course that’s something I would like to change. That’s why for the past year or so, I’ve been writing almost everyday. This year I added to my daily schedule writing for two hours. I’m averaging about 2,000 words a day. I’m doing this because I want to get better at it. Most of it is introspective drivel that is only interesting to me. But I’ve been making little leaps. It’s been a while since I had “writers block”. It’s almost a myth to me now. That’s because I have learned to separate the process of the post-writing. I don’t self-edit. I don’t judge. I just let my fingers roam free.
But I have no idea if the quality of my writing has improved. I feel like it has, but it’s hard to be objective. Most of the advice on writing is meant, for the most part, for people in the writing fiction business. I don’t aspire to write a novel, at least not yet. My aspiration as a writer is in the non-fiction world. This presents a challenge though. In the non-fiction world, there are two types of writers. The first type is the expert or the person who is passionate about a subject who learns to write really well about it. The second camp is the aspiring memoirist, power essayist, or journalist. This second camp may be even interested in writing fiction.
My reading preferences are in non-fiction, and the writers I want to emulate, are in the first camp. I like some writers of the second camp like David Sedaris and Malcolm Gladwell, who are amazing storytellers. And I like the idea of creative non-fiction, but very little people can do it well. I like my non-fiction, non fictitious. Nothing annoys me more than a magazine article that starts out with, “on a chilly Monday morning in mid October, on a hilly hillside in a three-story building, I asked Al Gore what he thought about Global Warming.” It’s an interview, not Lord of the Rings.
It’s not that there isn’t good writing advice specifically for aspiring non-fiction writers, On Writing Well by William Zinsser is simply required reading, but understandably there’s way more for fiction writers. Because there’s way more stuff to master. There’s plot structuring, dialog, and many complex things. So the general advice one finds on the web can be a little misguiding. It’s not that I don’t believe that you can benefit from trying to write fiction either. If you’re just a blogger that writes about Apple, you would certainly benefit from understanding how that kind of sausage is made. But that’s kind of like learning about automobile engines to just change a battery. Hope this makes sense.
I’m not even sure if I have a point, but what I think I’m trying to get at and what I’m realizing while writing this, is that the craft of writing in general, be it non-fiction or fiction, is a subtle craft. Good quality writing is subtle. Good writing for me is when I don’t notice that it’s “good writing”. It’s when the writer stops being an egotistical writerly writer and just convinces you about something or takes you away to a land far, far away.