Thursday, January 13, 2011

Revisiting the Seat-of-Pants, Seat-of-Chair Rule

"I just don't have time to write."  Hmmm.  Think again!

January, a new year, a fresh start.

And the same old bad habits?  Still there.  You're still telling yourself "I'll sit down and write something when I have more time" or "I just need to get a few things off the To Do List" or "I'm just too busy right now."  I've heard them all and, probably, voiced them all at some point, too.

But it simply won't do.  It's time to make a few promises to yourself.  Don't call them "resolutions" or you'll doom yourself to failure; instead, call them "rules" (a perfect word because it suggests a straight line, order, discipline).

To get started, let us revisit my favourite writing rule, which is actually a quotation from American writer Mary Heaton Vorse:

The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.

Translation: sit down and write.

It's as simple as that.

So, writers (and I'm thinking especially of the young writers in my Writer In Residence program this year - you know who you are!), don't put it off.  Don't make excuses.

Instead, make time. Find a chair, sit down, and write.  I guarantee you will feel so much better for having followed this simple rule.

(Photo by Jean Mills)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Letters to the Editor

One of Life's pleasures is writing a Letter to the Editor

I encounter a news item or feature in the paper - my morning read is The Globe and Mail - that draws an immediate reaction: yea or nay, sometimes gentle, sometimes fierce. The next thing I know, I'm walking around the house marshalling my ideas into three or four sentences that capture the absolute essence of my response. 

It has to be short. It has to be focused. It has to be relevant. No tangents, no wandering, and, if possible, not too much "I".  The secret of a good letter to the editor is to send a message that is more about the issue and less about you.

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.  Today it did work, and my response to weekend columns about hockey (a passion of mine) by Roy MacGregor and Christie Blatchford made it into The Globe.

Another one of Life's pleasures is opening up to the Comment page and seeing your name in print. Okay, it's just a Letter to the Editor. But it's still the product of careful reading, contemplation and writing.

A Letter to the Editor is the writing process in a nutshell - with a nation of readers built in for free.