[by Colleen Wainwright]
One of the most common pieces of advice I hear given to non-writers who want to learn the secrets behind writing well is “write like you talk.”
It’s terrific advice, especially when you’re stuck (I reject the notion of “writers’ block”). What trips up many of us is this insane notion that first drafts ought to read like published text, when what’s published is almost always a second or third or maybe even a 1,003rd draft. The only thing we should aspire to writing when we sit down is what writer Anne Lamott has famously dubbed the sh*tty first draft. And writing like we talk tends to facilitate that all-important, often-brutal transfer of words from brain to page.
But as a photographer, it might be equally, if not more useful, to write like you shoot–or at least, how you’re taught to shoot when you’re getting started, and how every photographer I’ve ever asked about how to improve my own photographs has advised me: i.e., figure it’s going to take lots and lots of shots to get a good shot, let alone getting good at seeing the shot.
So ease up on yourself, expectation-wise, and step up to the plate, commitment-wise. Take every low-pressure opportunity you can to write, and give yourself extra time and space to do it. Blogs can be great for this, but if that’s too much pressure, start with social media: write a few short lines to accompany every photo you post; start a Tumblr and pledge to not just reblog, but to add meaning and value with your own perspective. For several years, I trained myself to “write short” by writing descriptions for every bookmark on my delicious and StumbleUpon accounts. Most of the time, no one saw them but me, and that was exactly why I did it.
Practice, practice, practice, and give up the notion of perfect. Soon enough, your writing will be better than you can imagine!
Colleen Wainwright has been writing since she could hold a pen, and still resists the sh*tty first draft.
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