My Top 3 Writing Tips

We’ve asked our beloved Emily of Emily Thomas Writes to share her top three writing tips with us today.  These are the gems she has for us…
1. Get other writers around you.

In High School I had an a wonderful English teacher who would assign interesting Essays that my friend Leslie and I would spend hours laying on the blue carpet of my living room floor writing. Writing is detestable to so many people but we had an exceedingly good time. She was amazing with words and I became a better writer from reading her work. Find your Leslie and write with her. It won’t likely be as often or as in person as the luxury I was afforded in high school but it makes a world of difference to travel this inspiring (but often downright discouraging) path with a few fellow writers. This is a picture of a sweet time Amy Young and I recently stole (in an apparently very well-lit area) to talk about all of the writing.

amy and emily

2. It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Just start.

Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday (where you write for five minutes on a one word prompt) has taught me two things: I can’t write anything worth a darn in five minutes, but more importantly I learned that not even I know exactly what is going to come out when I sit down to write. It doesn’t make sense. I’m the one writing. Shouldn’t I know what I’m going to say? All I know is that when you simply write without stopping some interesting things happen.

When I taught high school in the jail, I had my students write this way for 5 minutes. Some remarkable words were recorded as a result. I would encourage you to give it a try. I do not typically encourage others to adopt the habits of my inmate students, but in this case, I think it is a great idea.

writing is easy quote-1

3. It’s okay if only your Mom reads it.

My journey with writing has been a long one. My first “published” work (if you consider lamination a form of publishing) was in 4th grade when I wrote about Percy the pig ballerina. It was widely read by both my mother and the teacher who assigned it.

Nothing good comes from too much looky-looky at your stats. There is a fine (almost invisible to the naked eye) line between looking to see “how I could better serve my readers” and checking every five minutes to see “if I’m famous yet.” These statements are written in the first person because I am openly chastizing myself here. There was one day several months ago where “an open letter to cool moms” went viral and so I started clearing out my schedule for Good Morning America and Jimmy Fallon appearances.

Although not famous (yet), I have received unsolicited feedback on several occasions that my words were the words other people couldn’t find to describe their experiences. I have repeatedly received texts and emails saying “I’m crying in public. Please stop doing this to me.” While I never intended for all the breakdowns, I am thankful that my words are connecting!

I’m not trying to build myself up here but when I write, it’s fairly easy. If you write, you understand. Words are always swirling around. I construct and deconstruct the perfect sentence in the shower. It’s just what I do. Other people have other (more lucrative) “things.” My husband says words I have never heard before when he works and does math that makes me think he is some sort of genius robot. It’s easy for him, it’s just what he does.

If you’re a writer, you have the ability to give words to the person who knows “something is going on” with them, they just don’t know what it is. My stats aren’t super impressive at this point but I do know a small difference has been made at some point for a couple people and that’s enough.

I leave you with Elmore Leonard’s words for when you’re tempted to make this writing thing too complicated:

leave out parts quote-1

What helps you write?

11 Comments

  1. M'Lynn February 5, 2014

    Coffee. Solitude. A new pen. A journal with no lines on the pages. More coffee. A chunk of uninterrupted time.  (this is what I’d love to do on vacation)

    Well, now I see why I’m not writing as much as I’d like these days!

    When I write for myself I prefer a pen & paper, when I’m blogging or newslettering I prefer to type. Now I’m wondering why. Probably because personal ponderings seem safer in a journal.

    I do love to type, though! The whirring sound of my fingers flying across the keyboard as thoughts fly out of my mind is such a joyful noise!  I’d better bring my computer on vacation, as well! Or an afternoon at Starbucks. That would feel like a vacation! I’m going to buy a new journal, too. I’ve been in a personal writing rut for a while now. 🙁

    One semester in college I met up with a group of girls at a local coffee shop. We’d read a chunk of Bible and then write for 10 minutes. Then, we’d share. The results were profound. I miss that!

    1. Jennifer February 5, 2014

      In the past I have found that sometimes it is in the journal, with the pen and the paper that thoughts and ideas, will often first find life. Maybe because for me (when I have used it…) it has often been where, as you put it, I often end up writing things which do express my heart, not meant for global consumption, or even for anyone other than me at the time… And yet sometimes it is those things which will later come back to mind, and be meant to be shared more widely. But if I have not begun to write in the “safe” place of the journal, maybe the ideas will not even begin to see the light of day…. Clearly time for me to begin to write in a journal again

      1. emily thomas February 6, 2014

        I really like the idea of starting at the “safe” space of a journal.  That way, at least you’re starting!

    2. Liz K February 6, 2014

      A journal with no lines…a woman after my own heart!!!

    3. emily thomas February 6, 2014

      I love the idea of reading a passage and writing about it then reading it together.  I would love to get some writers together and do that!

  2. Liz K February 6, 2014

    Quiet helps me write.  Well, I guess I should clarify that.  Quiet from kids and people.  Music is a must, (Josh Garrels Station on Pandora, just sayin).  And coffee.  That’s always important.  There was a point in my life, when I had just one kid, where I posted to the blog daily…now I am doing good if it’s once a week.  Something about the three kids and life overseas.  But I have that itch…that need to create something meaningful.

  3. emily thomas February 6, 2014

    I am trying the Josh Garrels station!  I used to write three times and now it’s once a week for me as well.  It’s working better for my family so that’s great.  Thanks for sharing!

  4. Carrie February 9, 2014

    I agree with all of the above. Quiet, coffee, music, and the same location. I listen to the same album over and over until my family wants to sniff pixie sticks to dull the pain. Something about immersing myself in a creatively written album gives me words and thoughts when I sit to get them on a page. I’m in a writing rut also. It is dehydrating to me to be at this place. That’s when I know that I don’t just write, but I NEED to write. Loved your thoughts on the whole writing process, by the way!

  5. emily thomas February 11, 2014

    Thanks Carrie!

    Sorry to hear about the lull.  I also love a well-written album.  My favorite right now is the Sandra McCracken album “The Builder and the Architect.”  Amazing.  What’s your favorite?

    1. Carrie February 17, 2014

      When I was writing my book, it was Sarah Groves’ “Fireflies and Songs” album. After awhile, it just felt awkward to write to any other album. 🙂

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