They should be...interesting. At the very least.
Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
Writing is, by its very nature, a solitary activity. You can go to meetings, read blogs, commiserate on Twitter, sit in a room full of other writers, so and so forth, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be your butt in that chair with that blank page in front of you. And nobody but you is going to be the one to write it. So writing is about you.
Ironically, writing is also about complete and total strangers. Sure, you might know your audience, but you write not for yourself, but others, and that means the minute your writing is away from you, it’s in the possession of a complete stranger. That’s right. You write alone to entertain strangers.
It’s a little daunting put that way, I know. Nine times out of ten, you can’t sit behind them, giving them the director’s commentary and answering their questions. So your writing must be self-contained enough to stand on its own, to answer any questions the reader might have (even if the answer is, “I’ll tell you later.”). It’s your job as a writer to learn not only story, but the craft to tell that story in the most entertaining way possible. ...this really isn’t getting any less daunting, is it?
Hm, perhaps I’m not so great at the “pep” part of the pep talk. All right, all right, let me put it this way. There’s a quote that goes, “A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” Thomas Mann said that, and I think he had an idea what he was talking about. Wow, I should really just stop right now before I convince the lot of you not to become writers. What I was trying to say before I dropped us all in this rabbit hole is that writing isn’t always easy. It’s not always difficult, and nine times out of ten, if you think you’re a great writer, something’s about to come along and either smash that ego to pieces, or perhaps you’re kind of crap.
For most people, writing is work. And it’s not something that magically happens overnight where you decide, “I think I’ll be a great writer today!” No, most of us unlucky bastards have to sweat and toil over every word. You know why? Because we entertain complete strangers. We’re egotists at our very core: we’re telling complete and total strangers that they should listen to us because we have something awesome to say, and that our words are worth their time. Then, you know, we actually have to follow through on that promise, which is where the rest of the rules help.
So, yeah, what this rule is really saying: “Know your craft, dope. If you have something to say (and you should always have something to say if you intend to make somebody read your writing, even if it’s “I missed you!”), say it the best way you possibly can. Don’t bore complete strangers. Geez.
Also, I really feel like this post should be accompanied by a Gibbs slap.
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