Of all of the things I’ve learned as a writer, perhaps the most valuable is this: Write unafraid.
This sounds trite, like “Walk with your head up.” No shit.
When developing a voice, I’ve realized that a writer must employ a few concrete tactics.
1.) Write authoritatively: Too often, I would get into the mindset of, “If I write this, will it create backlash or will someone challenge me on this?” If the answer was, “Yes,” I found myself deliberately changing the language to make it a little more passive, a little more open to interpretation. Don’t do this. If you believe something, write it. Be prepared to defend it, if necessary, but don’t be afraid to write with confidence.
2.) The worst they can say is no. Go ahead and pitch: Look, I struggle with this as much as anyone. You get an idea for a story. You tweak the pitch a bit. Do some research. Reach out to a source, half-heartedy. Re-tweak the pitch. But it never gets sent. Story never gets done, but you at least. The worst an editor will say is this story is not for them.
3.) Believe that you can cover any topic: Another problem is the scope of ideas can get daunting. You have a story but it involves someone well-known. You might actually have an in with a source. Or, you have an idea for a story, but it’s a delicate social issue. It’s an issue that needs to be written about not only carefully, but well. Done right, in your mind, this story can change how we see the world. But you don’t pitch because, well, you should leave that for much better writers than yourself. Don’t leave it for them.
4.) Don’t write compromised: Don’t write a glowing review of a bad beer/hamburger/product just because you got it for free; Don’t be overly complimentary or hide the flaws in a subject just because you were given access to their lives for a story.
We all learn these things along the way. We do what we do to put food on our tables, but at the same time, we can’t compromise who were are, what we think, how we feel. This for me has been the star by which I tried to guide my life for a while, but ever since having children, for sure. If we do what we do honestly, there’s more than just writing that we’ve produced to show our small effect on the world, but there’s a message and a meaning behind them that can hopefully make a larger effect on the people around us.
I’m not perfect. I’m not the best writer or advice giver. Some of it may seem hypocritical. try to be the best dad and husband I can be, but, shit, I fail there a lot too. I’ve said things and done things in the past that I’m not particularly proud of, but our lives aren’t static. We move on, we move forward. We’re not defined by just the failures or just the successes. We’re defined by so much more. If this blog proves as a window in my continually getting better as a writer, friend, brother, dad, husband, and person, great. I’m glad you’re here.