On Writing and Getting Un-Stuck

Life Goes OnToday when I was logged in this blog, I noticed that I have written 186 posts which generated 2676 comments. I was surprised at how much I had written especially when at the time I started this blog, I had no intention of keeping it up. It was fun to write and it was fun to see comments on what I had written. It still is fun to see comments. But now I am much more self-conscious for some reason. This is also becoming one the reasons for the decline in my posting frequency.

Oh, writing that word, self-conscious reminds me of a brief conversation I had with Liz Strauss once and I had said I couldn’t write anything (apparently, this has been the case for some time now) and do you want to know what she said? Her answer was “Pearl, There’s no pressure. Doc Searls says “A blog is just an email to the world.” :) ” And that gave me a much needed push and I was fine for some time. Isn’t that so profound? Liz always writes such beautiful and inspirational words. Today while I was browsing StumbleUpon, I came across her article Let Yourself Join the Human Race that describes so much of what I’ve been feeling lately.

During the first few weeks and months into blogging, I remember I used to feel ‘free’ and would write as if I was talking to a close friend. But lately I’ve been feeling some sort of pressure to do well. The expectation. And when we start build expectations and start worrying about the results, it becomes that much harder to start. After reading that article from Liz, I felt as if she wrote that piece just for me. (I’ve had this feeling numerous times when I read Liz’s blog). Why am I so self conscious now? I know, once upon a time, these words didn’t exist. So, why now? I’m not sure why, but today I decided to join Liz and decided to drop this ‘self-destructive’ word – self and decided to just start writing, whatever came to my mind.

So, while I am talking about writing, something else comes to mind. One of my job functions is to grade essays written by grown ups for employment. I can’t begin to tell you how horrendous some of these essays sometimes are. People just do not pay attention to their writing. I am far from writing perfectly, but I hope whatever point I am trying to convey, it does make sense to you. homework sucks

So, when I recently graded some of these essays, I jotted down some of the problems I came across again and again. Based on my observations, I think if we kept following in mind, may be the articles or essays or whatever it is we are writing, would come out a bit better.

  1. Use plain, conversational language.
  2. Write to express, not to impress.
  3. Use plain and familiar words.
  4. Never use a long word when a short one will do.
  5. Keep sentence structure simple.
  6. Use the active voice.
  7. Keep your paragraphs short.
  8. Omit needless words.
  9. Revise and rewrite. Improvement is always possible.
  10. Write in a natural style.
  11. Pay closer attention to spellings and grammar
  12. Edit and proofread and weed out errors and clutter

In writing tips for writing, I couldn’t leave out the literary legend, George Orwell, who wrote an essay in 1946 called Politics and English Language, in which he provides the following rules for good writing:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Anything else to keep in mind when writing a good piece? Also, I would love to know how long it takes you to write and publish a post.

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18 Responses to “ On Writing and Getting Un-Stuck ”

  1. I love the way your write, Pearl. You bring yourself shining through your words and I like what I see. Just look at the number of comments you have received – An average of 14+ comments per post – that is excellent. I wish I had half that amount.

    George Orwell was wise but how do you put reddedit, fave on technorati, stumble it, digg it …. in laymen terms?

    Sueblimely’s last blog post..To The Coven

  2. A blog is an email to the world. – Thats really nice. Pretty much how I see it too.

    Laura’s last blog post..Make Your Own Comics With Comiqs

  3. thank you so much Sue.. those are some nice words you said there! hehe those short phrases really mean a lot to us, don’t they…. well, anyone who doesn’t know them probably don’t need to use them either ;)

    pearl’s last blog post..Awards, Accolades III

  4. thanks for reading and commenting Laura.

  5. Pearl, I understand completely. I used to could blog about little things, or write posts that were more casual. Now it feels like every post isn’t good enough and I’m always dismissing ideas. I’m pressured to do well, even though it doesn’t need to be like that. You talk about how Liz inspires you, but you inspire me as well. :)

    Tay – Super Blogging’s last blog post..Bending the Web: Become Popular in 2 Months

  6. @Tay – you are right, it doesn’t need to be like that… and I have tons of posts started but I never get to finish because of second thoughts on the idea itself… hey, you flatter me Tay :) I’m glad you find this blog interesting…

  7. Hi Pearl,

    I hava the same feeling when reading some of Liz’s posts! And you are right, the moment you are aware of who your readers are and think about the quality you want to offer them , it gets harder to finish your next entry :)

    Once I know what the post would be, it usually takes me an hour or two to complete it. But the time I spend thinking of the topic, filtering ideas and creating a mental copy first, that’s a different issue :)

    Alina Popescu’s last blog post..JS-Kit Services 2.0 – Widgets at Another Level

  8. exactly Alina….. Liz is really very good at what she does! this was one of my new year goals to plan my topics ahead and I haven’t gotten started on that yet! its the hardest to delineate the entire week’s posts, let alone over longer period of time.. its taking me longer and longer to write posts these days – may be Im getting old :D

    thanks for stopping by Alina … I’ll be visiting you soon…

    pearl’s last blog post..Networking – Necessary Investment for Small Businesses