Ernest Hemingway

5 Ways You Can Become A Better Writer in the Second Half of 2014

By Daniel Ford

I know some sun and surf left over from the Fourth of July weekend might be clinging to your Monday work outfit, but it’s time to get back to work.

The muse rests for no writer.

I came up with five tips that you can use to improve your writing during the second half of 2014. Feel free to suggest your own in the comments section or tweet us @WritersBone.

Don’t Be Afraid To Be Alone

Being alone sucks doesn’t it? Consider these quotes from writers about loneliness:

“Writing is a lonely job. Even if a writer socializes regularly, when he gets down to the real business of his life, it is he and his type writer or word processor. No one else is or can be involved in the matter.”—Isaac Asimov
“The writing profession is reeking with this loneliness. All our lives we spend in discoursing with ourselves…The loneliest people in the world we writers are. Except that, while we are conversing and laughing with ourselves, we manage to shed our loneliness…to scatter it as we go along.”—H. L. Mencken
“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer's loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.”—Ernest Hemingway

Gah. Who would choose such a life?

Well, you did. I did. All writers have.

There’s nothing wrong with being alone. I’m a social writer—one who needs constant stimulation from music, conversation, or noise to get my thoughts down on paper. However, there comes a point where I need to tune all of that out to get down to the actual business of writing. It’s not an easy place to get to because the loneliness of it is so crushing.

But goddamn, it’s worth it.

There’s no need to be afraid of it. You know what happens after you’re alone? You’re not. You’ve got a finished product that you can ask someone about. And you become one with the world again.

“BIC”

I’m adopting a method of writing I learned from author Jeff Shaara during our podcast interview. It's the “Butt in Chair” method, which complements “don’t be afraid to be alone” nicely.

Get in the chair! Duct tape your can to the seat if you need to!

The best part is you can put your chair anywhere. The beach, a cabin in the woods, a park, a roof deck overlooking the city, a five-star hotel, or any other place your muse likes to frequent. There’s no reason to be uncomfortable while you’re lighting your mind on fire.

Longhand Is Your Friend

Writers come up with a ton of excuses not to write. It’s so easy not to write you don’t have your butt in a chair or you don’t have your perfect alone time.

“I’m not near my computer” is something I hear often. Who cares? God invented paper and it’s worked well for pretty much every writer before this generation of computer addicts. Carry around a notebook for when the muse strikes you when you least expect it. You can write notes or write a full story in longhand. Having to type it out later will only strengthen your prose.

Plus, that blinking cursor on the screen can be a bitch. It’s almost like having someone scream at you while you’re writing. If Hemingway had to use a computer, he would have blown his brains out a lot sooner than he did. It’s actually cliché now to say, “I stared at the computer screen looking at the flashing cursor willing myself to write something.”

Longhand writing requires more thought and effort, which is never a bad thing when you’re writing. You want all of your senses and mechanics involved. Besides, you’ll have beautiful pages to fondly look back on when you’re strangling pigeons in a Parisian park à la Hemingway.

Read Your Own Material

You’d be surprised how many writers don’t like editing their own stuff.

I am not one of them. I like to re-read and have others read my material. Your work needs to see a little bit of the world after you’ve been alone with it, labored over it, and churned it over in your mind again and again.

Don’t be worried that it might be crap. It likely is. But that’s okay too. Louis CK said in an interview once that you learn a hell of a lot more from failure than you do from success. He’s right. You find out what kind of writer you are when you overcome bad material. You figure out how to shape your dialogue better, which characters you should stick with, and what settings work better than others. You can’t discover any of that by putting your Word doc in your computer’s trash bin or stuffing your pages under a pillow.

Read, despair, learn, re-write. Repeat.

Have Fun

Writing doesn’t have to be drudgery. In fact, it shouldn’t be. Rebecca Cantrell, one of our earliest interviews and one of our biggest supporters, said it best:

“If writing isn’t fun, why do it? I have lots of fun writing and so do most other writers I know. It doesn’t have to be about suffering.”

Being creative is a gift. Don’t waste it being miserable.

Go write. Always.

For more essays, check out our full archive

From Europe With Love: 12 Snapshots of Spain to Spark Your Creativity

Franco-Españolas Winery in Logroño (a favorite of    Ernest Hemingway   )

Franco-Españolas Winery in Logroño (a favorite of Ernest Hemingway)

By Stephanie Schaefer

Writers often feel restless and for justifiable reasons: deadlines, writer’s block, and a lack of creativity stemming from their day-to-day routine. Solving these problems typically requires a change of scenery—moving to a different room in your home, going outside, or, if you’re lucky, flying to a distant continent.

Writing isn’t known for being the highest paid industry, but they say that “traveling is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” That’s as good excuse as any to book a ticket abroad, right?

Here are 11 more snapshots from my recent trip to Spain to save for a rainy day or creativity drought:

1. Overlooking the vineyards in Laguardia (not to be confused with the New York airport of the same name)

2. Colorful alley in Laguardia

3. Picturesque ocean view of the Basque Country coast (San Sebastian)

4. San Sebastian at sunset

5. Those who live in Crystal Palaces should not throw stones, they should just admire the view (Palacio de Cristal in Madrid)

6. Snapshot of a Flamenco dancer in Madrid

7. There’s no raining on this Madrid parade—just plenty of sunshine and bright attire!

8. The Buen Retiro Park (translation: "Park of the Pleasant Retreat") on a beautiful spring day

9. How could I not take a picture of the vast literature on the streets of Madrid for Writer’s Bone?

10. How many novels does a writer have to sell in order to live in this castle-like abode overlooking the park?

11. Corner of the Plaza Mayor filled with cafés and culture

For more essays, check out our full archive

Why I Wanted To Be A Writer: Dave Pezza

This is the debut of a series featuring how all of us at Writer's Bone got our starts. Look for other tales from the crew in the near future.

I look nothing like David Foster Wallace.

I look nothing like David Foster Wallace.

By Dave Pezza

At one point in college I realized that writing was something I thoroughly enjoyed, and, quite frankly, I was good at it.

That realization mixed with the remarkable idea that writing is timeless. When you write your mind enters a timeless medium. The fact that the late David Foster Wallace can still shares his thoughts with me in an intellectual and significant way through his words absolutely amazes me.

Ultimately, I wanted to be a writer because I want to converse with others today, five years from now, 100 years from now about my thoughts and ideas. Yes, it is selfish and self-centered in many ways. But ideas shape and reshape our entire world, and how can you get them to work if no one can see them?

If I Had to Choose A Favorite Book With A Gun to My Head:

Favorite Line From Something I've Written:

The second reason was Cindy’s looks. She was not beautiful or classically pretty, rather Cindy was attractive. She had the appropriate curves and tight skin that a twenty-something girl usually has. She had light red hair with few freckles to match, but a pair of emerald eyes Arthur never failed to make note of. She played lacrosse in high school and in college, so she retained much of her former athletic body. She kept her nails short and painted dark brown, changed her hair style every couple of months, and wore clothes that accentuated her toned legs and busty chest. She wore high heels every day and hiked her skirt up just enough to give her 5’3 frame all the legs and height she could muster. All of this was enough to turn the head of every cubicle working salesman who she passed; their cheap suit pants and tight white underwear getting tighter and hotter as her sweet flowery perfume saturated the corridor halls with a carpet bomb of aphrodisiac.”

For more essays, check out our full archive