Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thoughts on thoughts (and writing)

There’s a flu or cold bug going around, hack hack. Two days ago, I got fed up with coughing all night and went to my internist for medicine. I’m fine now, but we got into an interesting conversation, which started when I asked him what his kids were doing these days. His older daughter, who was an English major, is working in Human Resources for a local supermarket and retail company. As a father, he’d told her she could major in anything that she enjoyed, but she should learn to write well and think logically, as any employer would value these abilities. He was right; she just got promoted.

Thinking clearly and logically and putting these thoughts down in writing are skills that take development and practice. My fourth novel is coming out in February, and I still find myself struggling to gather scattered thoughts before I write. Some days it’s worse than others. When new writers ask how to finish a novel, I often say it’s like exercise or playing a musical instrument. You have to do it almost every day, because if you stop, you not only lose your thread, your nervous system and muscle memory get rusty. After Christmas, when I’ll be unable to write for two weeks, it’ll take a week for me to get back on track. Is anyone else like this? Maybe I’m just slow these days.

Most high schools could to do a better job at teaching these skills. Nor do MBAs and other graduate degrees make up for an inability to express oneself. Read an insurance contract, a package insert for cough medicine (hack hack), or anything written by lawyers. Don’t you want to get out your blue pen and go crazy? Either that, or toss it in the trash…except that you have to know what it says to protect yourself.

Okay, I know I’m not telling you anything you didn’t know. These were just some thoughts that came to me as I was substitute teaching today.

On another track, be sure to visit Type M for Murder this Sunday to read guest-blogger Don Bruns’s thoughts on networking for authors. Don is not only an award-winning author of two mystery series and a couple of anthologies, he’s a musician and PR guru.

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