Becoming a Wordsmith

Last year I started reading 5 books on writing. The one that made the biggest impact on me was Wordsmithy by Doug Wilson. In it, Wilson gives 7 hot tips for your writing life. In lieu of the subtitle, here are 7 gems I collected in this treasure chest.

  1. Get real life experience. Preferably experience that builds character. The more potent the inputs, the more interesting the outputs. “Real life duties should be preferred over real life tourism”.

  2. Always be reading. Read the kind of books you wish you could write. Reading is the soil from which good writing will grow.

  3. You need to build an arsenal of phrases, idioms, quotes. Store these in a commonplace book for easy retrieval. “When you collect phrases, points, metaphors, and whatnot in this way, you are, as Cicero used to put it, loaded for bear.”

  4. Don’t take yourself too seriously when starting out. “Only an insufferable egoist expects to be brilliant first time out”.

  5. You are not a blank slate. You always have a point of view; be honest and clear about what it is.

  6. Try your hand at other forms of writing. If you want to write a novel, you can warm up by writing a sonnet.

  7. Write well in every setting. Don’t wait until you are writing a book. Write good emails. Write beautiful letters to your spouse.

There’s no better way of concluding this post than by giving you the greatest comeback of all time; my favorite quote from the book.

One time G. K. Chesterton, the rolypologist, was patted on the stomach by his adversary, George Bernard Shaw, a beanpole of an infidel, and was asked what they were going to name the baby. Chesterton replied immediately that if it was a boy, John, if a girl, then Mary. But if it turned out to only be gas, they were going to name it George Bernard Shaw.