I have been a writer my entire life. My clumsy birthday cards to my parents are filled with barely legible but lengthy declarations of love and smudged finger prints. When I was in the 4th grade, my teacher gave me a copy of the 1973 Writer’s Guide, which was bigger than a Sears & Roebuck catalogue, and had a mystifying expanse of publications and publishers that one might submit to. A bit much for a ten-year old.
But I could write. And I wrote and I wrote. I’ve written for newsletters, back in the day when they were printed (heaven forfend) and on the early days of the internet, I wrote for burgeoning feminist websites. I’ve been published in national publications, I’ve written two books with a third on the way and now I blog for The Huffington Post, the lovely and amazing Times of Israel and my own blog, Stories Without Borders.
I lived and worked in Hollywood for ten years, where I read and analyzed film scripts for production companies. Later, I transferred these skills to reading scripts for aspiring writers and teaching them how to tell stories in a cinematic, unique and compelling way. I taught screenwriters how to pitch their projects to busy and discriminating Hollywood executives, jaded by the number of pitches they hear daily.
A year ago, I started the Tel Aviv Writer’s Salon, a weekly group of writers that come together to learn about an aspect of writing and to write in a safe, happy, accepting environment.
Writing for me is like breathing. I have to do it. And it’s easy – I am very blessed. As most writers will agree – we must write. It is how we think, reflect and gain perspective on our lives. And when writing comes to you very easily, it’s also pretty easy to write about something else for someone else. You just need to get what they are wanting or needing to say and then you write it. Easy.
But not for everybody.
I know many a brilliant person – in business, in the arts – that cannot write a compelling, cohesive paragraph about anything.
They just can’t. Even though they are experts in other areas.
Writing is just a certain part of the brain – a muscle. And it can be developed. But first you must stop saying “I can’t write.” And you must read good writing and really be observant about what makes it good. Not in the ephemeral, “I just liked it” way – but rather a bit more studiously. Notice how elements were intertwined. Notice the word choices that were compelling and colorful. Notice the mood and the tone. You can do this too – if you practice.
Being able to write and write well is no longer a hobby or a rarefied but esoteric pursuit – today, with so much information online, with the global village and international business flourishing, the ability to sell yourself, your product and your ideas well is critical.
I still work with Hollywood writers, but more and more I also work with Israeli businesses to help their content to be more effective, snappy and persuasive. How do I do this? By the words, phrases and expressions that I choose to use. By organizing the information such that it is telling a compelling story.
Even if the writing you do for your company is not “creative” writing per se, everything you write on the behalf of yourself or your company is an opportunity to beguile and persuade – to dazzle the reader. Into giving you funding, into setting up a meeting, into doing better work.
Dry, dull or clumsy writing flat lines on the table very quickly.
With content exploding by the day, learning how to write well – or even better – is not a luxury.
You don’t have to want to be Tolstoy or Amos Oz, but you can write well.
Here are three ways you can improve your writing skills:
- READ MORE. Reading good writing and noticing what was good about it is a great way to begin to work out that writing muscle. Read as much good writing as you can. You can curate your Facebook page to put good writing front and center daily.
- JOIN A WRITING GROUP or take a creative writing class even for a week or two. Experiment with creative writing. Have fun with it. Learn some of the basics of writing theory.
- STOP SAYING YOU CAN’T WRITE. As a writer and a teacher, I find that often times I am a therapist as well. Nothing is as paralyzing and self-defeating as saying to yourself repetitively, that you cannot write. Do you know what the difference between you and a writer is? Writers write. And yes, some writers have natural talent that is formidable and amazing but they weren’t born that way. Stop saying “no” and start saying “I’ll try.”
If you are interested in coming to the Tel Aviv Writer’s Salon, you will be among friends. This week we are talking about the basics of screenwriting. Last week the topic was “Writing an Obituary for a Life That Never Was” which believe it or not yielded hysterical notes.
I will soon be giving a series of free workshops about making business writing more creative and fun. If you are interested in helping me host such a gathering at your company or for your social group, please be in contact through my website. Writing really can be fun.