Practice makes perfect. Well, that’s the idea. That in part is what lay behind my decision to use my 40th year – #ben2b40 – to blog every day. Also, my passion for writing – I love that feeling of reading something you have written and thinking “mmmm, that’s pretty good”, and as one of life’s organisers I enjoy having a clear goal and focus to my writing. Four months in and I am enjoying it even more than I expected and I hope that the very small band of folk who are reading it every day – thank you Dr J and Mrs J senior – are enjoying it too.
As with most things I do in life I am also in search of the learning – the reflections that will help me improve – in this case as a writer – but also as a person. In that spirit I thought that a third of the way into this year of daily writing would be a good point to take stock and capture the learning so far. Here goes.
1 I love writing. No stop the press, big news there but I didn’t perhaps appreciate how much I enjoyed writing until undertaking this exercise. It has fired my imagination and given me something to look forward to each day – some time for just me and my Mac. It has ensured that I do one thing each day that is just for me – something I know I will enjoy. I am not promising to continue to daily blog into month thirteen but I will definitely keep write something meaningful every day – something I identified as one of my routes to happiness and wellbeing some time ago but haven’t always managed to accomplish. That has changed now.
2 Proof reading your work is hard. No matter how good you are at reviewing other’s work – I like to think that through my years of managing big teams and multiple projects, challenges and the like, I got pretty good at editing. Doing it to your own work is nowhere near as straightforward – even with the daily practice. Dr J is spotting less typos each week now but there is still an error in every other post. Progress but more work to do.
3 Write about what matters to you. It’s one of those great cliches about writing, especially your first book; “write about what you know” but like so many cliches as much as we’d like to dismiss them there is something in it. I know that when I start writing about something that I care deeply about – whether its my family or my politics – the words appear quicker, there is a greater positive rhythm to my writing and the result is usually better. It helps if you know lots about what you plan to write – even though you can research most things online now – but it helps even more if you care about it; if it really matters to you; as it is likely to really matter to your reader.
4 Write for someone. This is mostly a selfish exercise I am on – a thing I am doing for me. But as I write each post I have someone in mind – often a specific person or type of person I am hoping to reach. Someone, who if they read what I had written would hopefully feel something; the writing would speak to them; it would move them in some way. Some days that person is me or Dr J, my mum, my Mary, my sister or those who know me. Other days I imagine a person travelling the same path I am describing and fumbling around for direction. Or someone who may be trapped in a loveless organisation that is milking them dry as their home life, health and wellbeing suffers. I often see the person I am trying to reach; they are sat in a soulless, lifeless, sterile office somewhere in a big town or city, tired from the work and tired of the work, waiting for the time they can escape and go home for some solace, before returning the next day for more torment. Some days, that is my reader. My audience. My person.
5 Read, read, read. This year of daily blogging has also been a year when I have already read more books in the first four months than in any of the last few years – by miles. That has brought it own great pleasure – especially rediscovering the magic of fiction after years of being a sniffy “I prefer true stories” bore. It has also improved my writing and my understanding of how to tell a story. Practice at writing is important but I believe that reading the work of others you admire is essential to be a good writer. Allowing them to whisk you away to their world helps you do some whisking of your own.
So, four down, eight to go. I hope you’ll hang in there with me as we enter the middle third of the year otherwise it will be just me, my mum and my wife. I couldn’t ask for better supporters but I hope that I am also reaching my reader, my person.