Writing vs. Conversing

Have you ever had one of those writing days where you know exactly what to say without having to work? Words skate across the page; paragraphs form themselves; your fingers fly across the keyboard and you think to yourself, “This is so easy. I wish every writing day was like this.”

If you have, take that thought and look it long and hard in the eye. Writing is hard. Writing is supposed to be hard. If you’re finding it’s a breeze then you’re cheating yourself.

Every now and again, I find myself forming sentences in “conversation mode”. My brain is in the same place it would be if I were caught up in an intiguing chat with friends. Nowhere near the life’s-essence-beading-on-the-brow concentration that story weaving requires. I use common words, say “what anybody would say” while constructing dialogue, and paper the characters with cheap emotions. The result is predictable, shallow, purposeless.

A writer needs continual challenge, not only for self-reassurance that he’s trying his best, but also to evolve and grow. What if you’re a genius? Progress anyway. This, I think, is the reason some successful writers turn to formulas. It’s not only because it sells, it’s because it’s easy. They’ve given up on growing, exchanged their tired pens for a form of conversing in disguise.

Listen to your gut. That urge to find “the perfect word” is there for a reason, so never sell it short. Envision every scene, down to the last sentence. Delve inside your characters’ emotions and thoughts. Keep a dictionary and a thesaurus by you whenever you sit down to work. I don’t care how good your vocabulary is; even the best of us slips into mirroring the way we talk and starts using just the same, fraying words instead of searching for new ones. Humans are lazy. Keep an eye on yourself.

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