San Francisco, California

Chip on your shoulder

I’ve been reading Chip Scanlan’s newsletter for the past couple of weeks now and I adore it. With each issue he looks at the writing process, at what works for him and other popular writers, and then he digs into a few stories.

If you’re ever interested in becoming a better writer then this is certainly a very good place to start. One post that recently caught my attention was all about why we should lower our standards when writing, and where Chip quotes William Stafford:

“I believe that the so-called ‘writing block’ is a product of some kind of disproportion between your standards and your performance. One should lower his standards until there is no felt threshold to go over in writing. It’s easy to write. You just shouldn’t have standards that inhibit you from writing.”

I’ve come to believe in Stafford’s counsel so much that I don’t just lower my standards. I abandon them. I allow myself to write as badly as I can.

(This is why blogs are so very useful—they are a safe space to write terribly, to keep you focused on the keyboard and the act of typing, rather than the art of typing. My hot take is that if you consistently act, then the art will come sooner rather than later.)

Chip also writes about pacing and setting aside time to type like the wind. And this reminds me that the best thing I ever did for my own skills in this area was to write a weekly(ish) newsletter for the best part of three years. It forces me each Saturday to go to a cafe and think about storytelling and structure, punctuation and plot. Not many of them are good, but some of them are okay. And some of them are starting points for something else altogether:

Something great.