L. Ayu Saraswati’s Random Writing Tips

  1. We are all unique and awesome in our own ways. That’s right. You are definitely awesome and unique, so some of these writing tips may work for you, some may not. Do share what work for you, so we all can be unique and awesome, still in our own ways. 🙂
  2. Establish a writing routine. If you say you’re a writer, then shouldn’t you be writing regularly? Whatever your writing routine is, have one (or more)! Mine happens to be writing at 5 am everyday while listening to classical music. (Amy Tan said that music functions as her transporting system to the writing realm. I tried it and it worked for me.) I’d do that until it doesn’t work anymore, then I’d listen to Bruno Mars who would tell me that I am perfect just the way I am 😉 until it doesn’t work anymore, then I’d go to the beach (jogging when I have the energy, walking when I don’t) until it doesn’t work anymore, then I’d cook some delicious food until it doesn’t work anymore, then I’d talk on the phone with my inspiring friends and families or whatever it is I choose to do until it finally works and I have my mojo back. Then back to writing.
  3. Have a writing group. Writing with a group of brilliant friends helps. A lot. Research says (Tanya Golash-Boza has the citation on her blog, I believe) that people who write in a community write more pages than those who don’t. Besides, I always find it wonderful to meet with fun and funny friends who are super smart to bounce off some ideas with and to whom you’d feel accountable about your writing responsibilities.
  4. Write, write, write. Whatever words that flow your way, write away. Don’t worry about editing. Elizabeth Gilbert said something about allowing the genie to enter your writing space and being open to receiving ideas. I suppose that helps too, except that when I hear the word genie, I’d think of Christina Aguillera (genie in a bottle anyone?), and that’s pretty distracting to me.
  5. When in doubt, edit. Shani Mootoo, yep the brilliant writer herself, once told me, that the key to good writing is to keep tweaking it. We keep tweaking and tweaking and tweaking and tweaking until it feels good. So if there’s that doubt even if only a little, that’s a sign that you need to change something. So change it!
  6. Have a catchy title. I love to play with words. But that’s me. I love to play. With words especially. But whatever and however way you can make your title catchy, do it.
  7. Read a lot and find your writing style. If there’s a writing style hat you find juicy and delicately delicious, try to understand why it is so and cultivate the kind of writing style that you want.
  8. Read books that help you with the formula of writing. Yes, I agree, writing (like cooking, if you know me, you’d know the insider’s joke of this gal who always went out to eat every day. No kidding. No exaggeration. I cook everyday now, still learning though) is a skill everyone can learn. Tanya Golash-Boza said so on my FB and her blog. (Check out her blog for more useful tips on writing: getalifephd.blogspot.com. My students and I find it useful.) If you’re an academic and wanting to write an academic article, I find Wendy Belcher’s book “Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks” very useful. If you’re a fiction writer, sorry, can’t help you much on that one. I published short fictions since I was 17 or so, mostly by writing what’s in my head. (Some people call listening to voices in your head crazy. I am okay with that. I earned extra allowances that way.)
  9. Make sure your writing has a (at least one!) point and support it with lots of convincing evidence. Duh? Need I say more?
  10. Writing, like everything else in life, comes with some challenges. So figure out a way to solve them. Find help. Hire a writing coach. Whatever.
  11. Do a writing challenge. When I was living in Kansas, I used to do a writing challenge with my wonderful colleagues. (Perhaps I should start doing that here). We would set a goal and money aside, whoever finish their goal can go out with the money that they have set aside and celebrate by having a lovely dinner with the group; whoever don’t finish their goal will miss out on the fun. Yikes!)
  12. You may want to whine and complain. Whine and complain anyway. Then go back to writing.
  13. Be yourself. Unless you’re stubborn. Then please change a little. Writing and publishing (unless you want to write for yourself) require that you listen and negotiate and navigate the complex terrain of your own writing/message/the reviewer/publisher/audience.
  14. Susan Lanser once said to me, what we haven’t learned enough is to say to ourselves, “Good enough is good enough.” After you’ve been writing so hard and believe it’s good enough, then click the send button. The reviewers will tell you what to revise later on. You’d do more revision later. Good enough is good enough.
  15. Don’t take writing, or this writing in particular, too seriously. Didn’t the wise ones say that life has a 100% mortality rate? No one comes out of it alive? So I’d say, let’s enjoy it to the fullest while we’re here: write, and cry when you get rejected, and then revise and resubmit it, and repeat, but remember to put on that red and shiny tango shoes (even if you’re a man!) and let your soul dance a little. And while you’re at it why not let your spirit sing and your heart, of course, sparkle as well? 😉