How to be an Imperfect Blogger (…and the Perfect Author)

A guest post by Elizabeth Howard of Letters from a Small State

watercolor by creativesque - click image to see more
watercolor by creativesque - click image to see more

In the next minute or two I am going to give away a pretty substantial secret on how to be a great author of your own work. Some people might tell me not to do this, but I’ve been doing it for years in my Freshman Composition courses, and so far it hasn’t caused anything but, in my opinion, more great things to occur.

Note: this advice applies to writing and to all creative work. Read on knitters and painters and welders!

So before I give away my secret, I’m going to tell you many of the things that other writing experts have said about this. You’ll recognize them. These are useful, but NOT the secret to being a perfect author.

  • Write (create) everyday.
  • Practice writing or creating like other “better” authors.
  • Revise. Revise. Revise.
  • Make sure you say what you mean.
  • Make sure you say what your audience wants to hear.
  • Be organized, for heaven’s sake.
  • Be funny.
  • Don’t be funny (it’s too hard).
  • Make sense or get lost.
  • Tell personal stories. Don’t pontificate.
  • Use truth and evidence.
  • Don’t plagiarize.
  • Be succinct. Don’t babble.
  • But then, of course, use details.
  • Eat your vegetables. (haha… see it isn’t so hard to be funny!).

Ok, I admit that all of these are good pieces of advice. However, they are not the SECRET to being the perfect author. I know this because there are only many items on this very incomplete list. And hundreds of thousands of professionals get paid daily to teach people how to create and write well.

But on my list, there’s only one item.

The Perfect Author Listens To Herself.

Here’s a story I want to use to illustrate what I mean.

When I first started blogging back in 2004, I lived in London, which is roughly 6,354.57 kilometres (3,948.55 miles) from where most of my friends and family live.

Blogs were kinda not much of anything back then. I used mine to give updates and post pictures of life in London. I used it to ramble about the differences between here and there. I often plagiarized. I pontificated and didn’t revise. My style had no shape. It was, to say the least, a messy reflection of my writer’s garret—colorful, loud, with symbolically leaking bean bag chairs and red wine stains.

I was only ever funny by accident. Most of the time I as morose as the London winter.

In 2007, blogs everywhere started to get readers. And Google’s search engine got really good.

This was right about the time the pub I worked for, The Warrington Hotel, got purchased by Gordon Ramsay. He lurked about and it made for good stories.

And suddenly, meaninglessly, there was heaps of traffic on my silly blog.

I got a taste of stranger-readers, and desired more! But I failed because I could never think of what to say that they would care about. And then I moved to New England, making a big mess of any artistic continuity or success I could have wanted.

Ever since then – especially since my encounter with Tara on Scoutie Girl – I’ve been striving make my blog something that is both valuable to ME and to my Readers. I am still trying to do that.

Years on, I see however, that the best of my work – meaning What I Like Best and Reflects my Real Work – tends to also be the Writing My Readers Like Too.

How. Odd.

Which brings me back to the Secret to Perfect Writing (Applies to Art too).

Listen to yourself.

This does NOT mean you cannot learn from others. This does not mean you should not revise or that you should not write or create every day.

Listening to yourself ensures the launching of original work. What is original strives then for the other qualities in art we cherish: Unusual. Fresh. Unconventional. Creational. The idea becomes an amalgamation: pieces of the world we roll around in, which we digest and reformulate. When we listen, we make original again.

But we have to hear the original, that voice in our minds singing our ideas. And to hear it, that means trusting the voice and letting it rise to the top.

The perfect author – of any art – listens to themselves. Then they get to work, traveling via pogo stick or roller skates, imperfectly creating a path of their own.

—–

At “Letters from a Small State” and “The Least Weird Person I Know,” writer Elizabeth Howard examines how we survive and occasionally thrive in America, through the lens of our smallest details. A writer and poet living in Connecticut with her new family, she works daily in her own slivers of creative space and time.

11 thoughts on “How to be an Imperfect Blogger (…and the Perfect Author)

  1. Elizabeth-

    I love your secret. I have been on a journey to stop writing what I think others will like and just write what I want to say and to be myself.

    I am a sarcastic and realistic optimist and I like for that to come across in my writing. For so long I tried to hold back, afraid I might offend or turn people off. The more that I listen to myself, the more comments I get on my blog and positive feedback I get.

    Great advice, I will continue to take this to heart. It can be to write within your true self because rejection against what you really think is a lot more jarring than rejection against something you just threw together.

  2. So true!
    When I am being my most authentic that is when the Universe opens up to me and what I am becoming as an artist expands exponentially! I am working in those slivers of time and space as well and mapping out my grand adventure. But the path that I take is completely mine alone and if I want companions on the journey I will ask for their help and seek out their wisdom. Thank you so much for this. I am moved by your words and your message.
    Enjoy the day!
    Erin

  3. I listen and incorporate, the hardest thing is to trust your voice. I have excercised this year not in the physical sense but in the self talk sense. Listen to myself and trust. That is what draws people who want to listen. I really appreciated reading this, it reminds me to be still and listen

  4. Thanks so much for the feedback! @dDarlene, I agree. I think it’s almost that it’s hard to HEAR your own voice… ya’ know? It sounds very normal to us. It takes practice to not only hear the unique sound (or look) our writing or art takes on… then to let that voice sing out!

  5. what a great post … & totally from the heart. I’m currently trying to figure out the next step in my little life & this makes more sense to me than half of what i read. Maybe it’s because it’s written as spoken, more a conversation than a “how-to” of technical speak. Anyways i love it & i appreciate you sharing. have a wonderful weekend!

  6. I still battle with myself to write as authentic as possible – I worry a lot about either offending people with my writing style (which is a lot like my speaking style) or boring them to tears with my content. Only recently have I started to break out of that awkward shell and project more of myself into my writing and I like it. And there’s a good chance that if I like it, other people will too.

    Thank you for the post!

    1. Hey Stacey, I totally get that! In real life, I say things out loud, then hear it, then say “Uh oh” to myself, and cringe as I await the fall out. I feel that way with my posts… though the more I push OUT to the edges, the better my responses tend to be. Thanks for your thoughtfulness!

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