“Who Do You Think You Are?”

In a creative writing class I took while in high school my teacher told us a technique I still follow today. Delete your first paragraph. No joke, it works. I’m not going to bother detailing the paragraph that originally came before what you are now reading. Let’s just say it was borderline awful despite some witty banter, you’re really not missing out on anything. I think a lot of writer’s struggle with the first few thoughts and after reading it over you realize it shows up on the page. It is hard to delete an entire paragraph initially but be brave and just do it!

Look, I have two paragraphs now. That’s the liberating part of it. You could spend all day deleting every other paragraph, and by all means do this if you think everything is still going to make sense, but seriously is your audience going to be so much the better for that brainstorming that never should have been there? Think of that first paragraph as the continuation of what you should have brainstormed and then get rid of it. I promise; it’s one of the best things I did all week. If you’re going to write crap, do us all the courtesy of resorting to a diary. That’s where I keep all the shit I can’t write online. And there’s a lot of shit online already….we don’t need yours clogging up the plumbing.

There are so many young people that are growing up in a world where the computer has always existed. While it’s a wonderful tool its misused and people forget that using a pencil and paper is a fundamental part of the writing process. I’m not gonna lie. I don’t write out my posts on paper before typing it, but if I was writing high quality book stuff, I’d have tons of written notes before sitting behind the blank computer screen. A lot of people my age argue that the computer is equivalent but I have to strongly disagree. It is not the same. Something about relying on spellcheck to revise even the simplest mechanical errors damages our ability to catch mistakes. Everything looks so clean and shiny that you could type gibberish and someone carelessly pretending to read your paper might slap a big fat “A++++” on the front of a perfectly formatted report on “Who’s Your Favorite Teacher”.

The other useful tip I’ve found helps me the most is to use smaller paragraphs. There is nothing worse than seeing a gigantic paragraph as tall as your sister. If you see little paragraphs you can find a place to stop reading if you lose interest or skip to the interesting stuff. I’ve found I read things for much longer, even if the scroll-bar is miniscule, if I see lots of separated text. That said don’t just make another paragraph because your teacher says you need five and you only had four. Now you’ve got the same problem as people who use way too many exclamation points…or my personal favorite…dot, dot, dots!!!!!!!!!

P.S. To view the guest post,originally written for my friends website, Wishes, follow this link.

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