Remember that photograph of a child on the brink of death from malnutrition and a vulture standing by like a chef who has just garnished their meal waiting for the feast? That photo still breaks my heart, probably because I’m a mom now and motherhood turns your heart into a dollop of emotions.
Do you sometimes write something and when you read it aloud, it just feels malnourished? Chances are there’s a heap of articles in your draft box that you haven’t dared post because you’re scared of the vulture. Every time you want to click ‘Publish’, you see the vulture, sinister, waiting to devour your little writing even before the netizens read. You even wish they’d troll you, since it’d mean someone took time to read your work. You close your laptop and go cut onions instead.
I have an abhorrence for vultures in general, but I don’t blame the vulture. It was just being a vulture, it didn’t know any better. It had not read the feeding etiquette manual, the chapter about not eating humans.
Your writing is your baby, if it’s already showing signs of kwashiorkor, here are a few things you can do.
Find your own voice
Finding your voice and style as a writer is an important ingredient in making your writing tastier. Your voice is your brand, your fingerprint, your unique style, the one thing that sets you apart from any other writer.
I love adding humour to my articles. I struggle if I have to write something that sounds like a judge reading a sentence because I’m always tempted to make even the saddest situations a little lighter without diluting the message. I loved this kind of writing very much, but I struggled with it because I imagined it made me look like a non-educated nincompoop. I may still be a nincompoop but at least I know I’m an educated one.
So, I wrote more serious sounding articles that ended up not seeing the outside of my writing kitchen. When they did, they sounded like I was trying too much, which I was. And we all know the girl who tries too much doesn’t get the guy. You’ll be there wearing eyelashes like a ground hornbill’s and he goes off to the sunset with a girl who doesn’t even comb her hair.
I embraced my style, whisked in good research skills, rubbed in some vocabs, and served it hot. To my amazement, people loved it. The stats were better than for the articles that I had served in suits with my hand on my back like a wine connoisseur. I found my voice and embraced it. I communicated better and without much strain. And I enjoyed the process.
Quit comparing yourself
Breaking news – you’re not the first writer in the world. Heart-breaking news – someone
most likely definitely writes better than you. Heart-attack inducing news – that writer that you admire so much may think that your writing is still in diapers and they badly need to be changed.
When you read other people, it’s assumed that you’re supposed to be inspired. Well, if you’re a tough self-critic like yours truly, you’ll beat yourself up to pulp for even daring to call yourself a writer. When you constantly compare and contrast your writing against others, you may end up getting your writing sulking and depressed.
There are times I read some write-up and I pause and wonder why in God’s good earth I thought I could be THAT good? I start imagining that my readers are also making the same comparison and giggling under their Ankara masks, pointing their fingers at me like a naughty child.
Read other people’s work to see how else to write, to get vocabularies, and to expand your knowledge. If you have to compare, let it be because you want to be better, not to depress yourself. Your writing has feelings too and you’re hurting its feelings by constantly asking it why it doesn’t have a pointed nose and perfect teeth like your favorite writers. Own your uniqueness and work to better it.
I started my blog in 2012. In those first years, I wrote when I had ‘inspiration’. I needed to feel that push, that unique experience, that life-changing occurrence that could be written about. I wasn’t very consistent because my life was not that interesting. I think I was too happy and happy people don’t make very good stories.
A couple of years later, I grew tired of writing and stopped altogether. The blog stayed but there are times I wrote three or four times for an entire year. In 2017, I didn’t write anything on the blog for the whole year.
Few people knew about my blog – most of them my friends who read more out of duty rather than because it was interesting. Then I woke up decided to take myself seriously. I started writing every week, sometimes twice a week. I was pleasantly surprised to find my readership going to over 800 in a day. For someone who used to get 10 views in a day, that was quite a feat.
Writing is a lot like taking a shower – you need one every day to stay fresh. Write every day, even as little as 500 words keeps you in the groove. Imagine if you went to the hospital for surgery and the doctor says, “Well, I haven’t opened anybody’s head since 2012 but don’t you worry, I have an idea of how it’s done!” Would you let that guy put you to sleep and dissect your brain?
Write even when you don’t feel like it, writing IS the inspiration.
Find your niche
Some days you want to write about babies; other days you want to write about how to rear hamsters and the next day you’re a financial analyst. If you spread yourself too wide, you’ll not get deep.
What do you like to talk about? What’s the one thing that makes your eyes bright with excitement and you don’t ever get tired of talking about? If you were paid to talk to people about something, what would it be? Take that and make it your niche.
Write what you feel is coming from the troves of your heart and your mind. There are many people stuck in jobs they hate, don’t be stuck in writing something that doesn’t interest you. I love writing real stories with an impact, creative non-fiction gets me excited. And I have found that it actually pays when you stick with it and make it so good that it can’t be ignored.
Writing is hard enough, it should not feel like you’re filling out your tax returns.