You have heard about the man who buried his master’s treasure because he was afraid of his boss’s wrath, I don’t want to be that man, when my master returns I want him to know I multiplied what he gave me, for his glory alone.
Writing is one of those few passions I am privileged to steward, at the risk of sounding self-obsessed, I am humbled to share some lessons I have picked up in this craft, over the years.
Rock higher than I
When writing I have learnt, it is important to first think of the ‘what’ rather than the ‘how’, I see writing as a “means” rather than an “end.” It is suitable that you are something else before you define yourself as a writer, another passion should drive you, another cause must stir. “… all other ground is sinking sand,” the ancient hymn goes.
Cause before pen.
For some I know, music trends move you, sound doctrine drives the heart of some of my friends, others are often unsettled by the state of politics, others -fashion, humanitarian stuff , blogging, the list goes on, yet not without caution, and I will tell you this as Christian, all identities outside the what we have become in Christ will eternally fail us. So we all tread with restraint and grab a cause before we grab the pen.
Gotta study boy!
I forget who said but I still remember what they said, “Writers who never read should never expect to be read.” God wrote a book, he even encouraged his people to “study to show themselves approved.” Whereas motivations to study may vary, the discipline itself is priceless. Writers do well to heed.
Author Max Lucado once put it well, “there is only one you, you will never bump into yourself on the street” I wouldn’t hesitate to apply that to writing too, we all arrived here custom-made, different by design, from the maker of all things, some folks are smitten by how computers work, others like Zuckerberg are fascinated with what computers can accomplish. So hone your style, admire and emulate other people’s style, but in the end, let it all rub on yours, which is original.
Like the Grammarly quote goes, “People who do not use punctuation deserve a long sentence.” – enough said.
This is my favourite; my journalism tutors used to say keep it short and simple- (KISS) I still agree, the world is full of information, don’t add to the problem, surgery is painful, but good, love your reader and cut the long sentence, avoid unnecessary words, mean what you say and say what you mean. William Zinsser, author of “On Writing well” famously quipped, “Clutter is the disease of American Writing,” he probably had never been to Uganda. So cut and cut, slice even your dear sentences, it might all turn out bloody, but then again, you save your dear reader the burden of thick paragraphs, like the one I just wrote now.
We are a society strangling in unnecessary jargon, but engineer talk should be left to Engineers, legal jargon shouldn’t be used in market stalls, in other words, write how you speak, if you’ve never told your wife she’s “pre-eminent”, don’t use it in a sentence, just tell us she cooks you awesome Irish and later asks how your day was. We will Gerrit!
This is one I just learnt, digital natives are lazy readers, they rarely scroll to the bottom of your stuff, (unless it’s your relative reading) so we say it again, keep paragraphs “chunked” to four, five lines, or less, single page in total for digital is good advice, Unless your editor or lecturer requires otherwise. And like our friends in advertising put it, “less is more. ”
One Thought at a time
If you want to tell us how awesome your barber is, don’t tell us about his cousin’s friend, who moved upcountry last week, and how he’s also starting a barber shop like “his nephews’ ” keep it to him, describe his laughter, his facial expressions as he trims your beard, we can know about his nephew in the next post, right?
Free to fail.
The trouble with life-hacking stuff is that when we hear “tips,” we try to get it perfect first time round, wrong, every craft takes time, punctuation and style grow, readers too, so dust yourself fast when your content looks horrible in the beginning, everybody starts there. Feel free to fail and break some rules once in a while, the ultimate things in life are high above pens and Microsoft word.
Led by the spirit
Of course everybody has their inspiration, some say music, others serenity, whatever it is, as a Christian, I have personally found relentless nutrition from prayer and God’s word, the hope of most of my writing is that my readers get to see (like author Tim Keller would put it) that, “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
Yep, I could say much more, but see what else I have got say here, as you also let us hear your own lessons, Will you?
Eddie Ssemakula is a Christian journalist, a thinker, a writer, a poet, a photographer and a content developer based in Uganda. He is the author of How to write, and writes on his blogs Muleefu and Muleefu Journalism. You can contact him on +256782793020 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org. He is on Twitter and Facebook.