Hi, Figgy Pudding.
Glad tidings to you in this last issue of 2021!
I had a different plan for today. (At the end of this newsletter I tease that topic for next time.)
Then I read the room—as busy as we all might be with holiday celebrations this week, we're also less than 2 weeks from a new year.
Is this a perfect time to review the most popular Total Annarchy issues of 2021? With an eye toward becoming stronger writers in 2022?
Heck yes it is!
* * *
How to Get Better at Writing: 10 New Year's Resolutions to Ignite Your Best Work in 2022
<Hand over heart; eyes to the heavens.>
In 2022, you resolve to....
1. WRITE THE FIRST DRAFT AS FAST AS YOU CAN. Get it out of your head. Get it onto the page. It'll be lousy. It'll be ugly. GOOD FOR YOU. You did it! Have a snack.
2. NEVER PUBLISH THE FIRST DRAFT. Rewriting sounds about as much fun as recovering from a Moderna booster. But please-please-please do it! Even if what you are going to publish is "just" an email. "Only" a LinkedIn post. "Merely" a marketing article.
The difference between mediocre and not-mediocre is one more round of revisions.
The difference between something you make excuses for and something you're proud of is one more round of revisions.
Your writing is not a sloppy-drunk at a family party; you should not be embarrassed by it.
I write 4 drafts of anything I write. I want to make each paragraph, sentence, word earn its keep.
If it's not adding anything, I cut it from the team and encourage it to try again during next week's tryouts. (I'm not trying to crush their spirit, you know?)
3. SHOW DON'T TELL. Snap out of the tendency to state things only as you see them—it's an easy trap for lazy writers.
Instead, put yourself into the mind of your audience. Step into their shoes; slip on their skin: What's it like? Add a second sense beyond sight: What's it sound, taste, feel like? Paint a picture. Make sure I recognize me in the frame.
Tell Me: New limited-edition face mask designs are here!
Show Me: Make Covid fight through skulls and switchblades to get to your face.
4. WRITE TO ONE PERSON. There are 43K people getting this letter today. I do not think about them—I think about you. You are my #1. What other 42,999? Where?
Pro tip: Count the number of YOUs in anything you write. If you run out of fingers... you're doing GREAT.
5. SPARK JOY. I get as much joy out of writing this newsletter as I hope you get reading it. Do you get joy out of your writing, too?
No good writing is created at gunpoint. If I hated writing this... you'd sense that.
6. READ EVERYTHING OUT LOUD. Reading your final draft out loud is the best way to hear your voice, literally. Yeah, you sound like a nutloaf, talking to yourself in the middle of your office. So?
Mistakes I catch during my own Nutloaf Moment (TM):
Countless spelling/grammar errors. Awkward phrasing. Hard-to-understand sentences. Moments when I sound too prescriptive or serious or straight. When I sound like I'm reporting a five-car pileup on the freeway on your local news... not writing to you directly in my own voice.
7. WRITE EVERY DAY. Even a sentence. Even a sketch. Writing practiced once a week isn't a habit, it's an obligation, as Jeff Goins says.
When you do (not "if," because I'm MANIFESTING), you will be a MUCH better writer one year from now, on December 20, 2022. Or I'll refund your money from the cost of this subscription, less 10% service fee.*
8. GO ANALOG ONCE IN A WHILE. Paper. Pen. Pencil. Typewriter. Slowing things down can unstick what's stuck. It can also make your writing sooooo much better, for a few reasons:
- It forces your brain to write at the speed of your hands. Your brain is so fast it would win the Boston Marathon, if your brain had legs and Nikes. Your hands are SLOW. They can't even break a 10-minute mile.
- A computer gives us endless opportunities to cut, paste, revise, backspace, fiddle, rewrite the same godforsaken sentence 30 effin times. It's exasperating how limitless the opportunities are for better writing when you're The. Worst. Writer. Ever.
9. START THAT THING. That book you've been thinking about? This is your year.
10. FINISH THAT THING. SHIP IT. You have one year. GO.
* * *
So what was the original plan for this issue?
I was planning to talk about Artificial Intelligence and Writing—having been part of a smart, fun, lively program about it last week.
But AI is an important topic that deserves a bit more focus and attention than many can give it here in the dim, dwindling days of 2021.
The AI Robots argued with me. They wanted the spotlight NOW.
"Talk about us now!" they chanted, pumping their thermoplastic fists skyward. They looked like a gang of celebrating North Pole elves swilling bourbon-spiked eggnog when the workshop whistle blows on Christmas Eve and they lay down their tiny hammers for the season.
No, elfin AI friends.
I call the shots. Not you.
In other words... Look for more on AI + Writing when we're back in January. (#teaser)
* * *
DEPARTMENT OF SHENANIGANS
A PERSONAL NOTE
Thank you for your kindness and generosity this year. Thank you for the inspiration. I'm a better writer because of you. It's a privilege to be here every other Sunday.
I just read a study that says newsletters need more photos of pets. So happiest of holidays to you... from me and my dog, Augie.
We might not agree on everything. But I think we can all agree that Augie is nailing this holiday photo shoot, isn't he?