Keep Writing Keep Reading

Good to see Copyblogger advocating that bloggers, and by extension all writers, need to keep writing.  Copyblogger uses the example of Johann Sebastian Bach and how easy it is to imagine him taking his time to compose his masterpieces where in fact Bach was an employee composing music to order on his employer’s schedule. 

So how did he do it and how does it relate to writing?

Respect for audience

Bach didn’t approach any one piece of music any differently from another.  He didn’t keep his best work back or fax in a performance.  He did the best he could for each piece at the time of writing it.  Are you guilty of settling for “good enough” when you could push for “good, getting better”?

Discipline

Bach was a musician because he was a musician.  He wasn’t a wannabe.  He didn’t procrastinate or say “when I’ve achieved x, I’m a musician”.  Are you a writer because you write or are you a writer who isn’t one yet because you’re too busy with irrelevant targets such as “when I’ve published x poems or got in y publication or can earn z directly from writing, then I’ll be a writer”?

Writing Reputation

Bach wrote for his patrons.  He also wrote for his listeners so his patrons would keep paying.  Writing has those twin goals too: you write for your market, but you also write for your readers so your market will keep paying.  A one-off masterpiece may generate immediate sales, but publishers are generally looking for writers that can continue writing and give them a long term income.  A magazine will want reviewers who can consistently write to deadlines, not someone who is going to stop after half a dozen reviews, however brilliant they were.

Keep Writing

Not just for practice either.  Having your name on a book spine is a great achievement, but no one wants to be friends with a writer who published one book ten years ago and is still promoting it (unless it’s being promoted alongside a recently published book).

Read

Bach didn’t just write music, he also listened to music and drew ideas from earlier pieces of work.  You can’t be a writer if you don’t read (you’ve read that before).  Reading other people’s work isn’t just an opportunity to learn how (or how not) to write but reading also gives you ideas to kickstart your own writing.

Research often shows that difference between people who are adequate at what they do and the people who are great at what they do comes down to practice and productivity.  Are you writing and reading every day?

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