My Five Worst Writing Habits (And How You Can Avoid Them)

[This post was originally published a few months ago but I wanted to resurrect it because (if you couldn’t tell) I’ve been in a bit of a writing slump and thought it best to revisit my bad habits in order to create some good ones.] 

There’s a troubling dichotomy that exists in the mind of a writer between thinking what you’ve just crafted is the most brilliant prose to brush against the blank page and wanting to run so far away from your own writing you reach a distant land where words don’t exist and people communicate using only their left eyebrow.

But while lauding your cleverness is a worthy exercise in confidence and self-affirmation—and why shouldn’t you be proud of your work?—it’s the writer-on-the-run who really produces the most scintillating stuff. Think about it: If you’re so incredible at writing, improvement becomes irrelevant. Why get better when you’re already the best?

The problem is, writing tends to be a craft predicated on the concept of evolution; each word you set down should be even more precise and well-placed than the last.   Continue reading “My Five Worst Writing Habits (And How You Can Avoid Them)”

Forbes and the Business of Storytelling

A few weeks ago, I received word I was selected to be a member of the 2018 Forbes Communications Council. It was a huge honor and a bit of a dream-come-true moment for me, so I figured I should probably repost my first Forbes.com article right here for all of you to read. You’ve stuck with me since the beginning (or at the very least, a few years) and I appreciate your support.

Before you read it, fair warning this article is far from the whimsical fiction or personal asides I usually write about but it is an ode to the importance of high-quality storytelling. My overall premise is really that despite the encroaching arm of machine learning or analytical decision-making based on big data and cold numbers, we still need writers. We always will.  Continue reading “Forbes and the Business of Storytelling”

Thank You WordPress

Just because you’re a needle in a haystack or a pea beneath a thick mattress doesn’t mean that needle-you won’t be found or pea-you can’t be felt. Here’s the proof: A few days ago I received a surprising email from Michelle, the self-proclaimed Chief Semicolon Advocate at WordPress; I use the site to host this very blog and Michelle’s email went something—OK exactly—like this: Continue reading “Thank You WordPress”

Discarded Post-it Poetry: An Idea That Sticks

We met in the most unexpected way. And while I guess great love affairs do often spring from the auspiciously unusual, I’d suspect none involve quite so much dog poop as this.

In the thick of Sunset Boulevard, just a hint from The Standard hotel, there’s a little dog park chiseled into a hill, accessible by two sets of stairs guarded at their very top by a blue-painted guitar standing sentinel at the entrance. Egyptian mummies are painted all along this guitar and on a warm, early morning in June I imagined that looking at the guitar was about as creatively inspired as I’d get while my dog sniffed around for the perfect spot to uh … go. Turns out, his nose sensed something I never could.

After fifteen minutes roaming the park, it was at the top of the staircase where he found his designated space for bodily relief—tryna make “poo spot” sound fancy—and that’s when I saw it. A note, stuck to a lamp-post on Sunset with all the crumpled-up charm of a bow-tied pug on the Fourth of July. “Hey Love,” the Post-it read, “You seem upset at nothing in particular. Yell at me. Really! It’s okay. I wont mind.” Then it was signed with something that looked like “sob.” (It was.)

Within seconds I posted a picture of the Post-it to my Instagram—”Who did this?” I asked in the caption—and within minutes was told the epistle had been inked by the gentle pen of sob. He’s the writer behind @discardedpostitpoetry, who affixes Post-it love poems around West Hollywood like a Banksy of the gorgeously written word. My own words could never do his justice, so let’s have the poetic man himself tell you about his work …  Continue reading “Discarded Post-it Poetry: An Idea That Sticks”

J.K. Rowling on Failure & Imagination (And A Failure of My Own)

A note before I begin …

Dear little word studio readers,

I apologize to you for the lack of blog posts this past week. All I can really say is: things happen. Not particularly good or bad things, just things. And when they do happen, it seems a mind can shut off amid all the jarring thingyness surrounding it, unwilling to go into any sort of creative place to thread words together like it once used to so these words can produce thoughts and so those thoughts can make sense.

But now, with the steadily dissipating effects of such things, I’m back and ready to ease into the daily routine that has become little word studio. I hope not to leave you for so long again and finish this brief note by expressing the same contriteness with which it began. 

Anywayyyy … Let’s start off tonight with my favorite quotes from J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard Commencement speech, which for me was the catalyst to find strength in recent failures while also remembering the importance of imagination to, as if by magic, conjure from a blank page something wholly new.

J.K., you’re up …

Continue reading “J.K. Rowling on Failure & Imagination (And A Failure of My Own)”

On Writing, On Wednesday: Passion

I apologize in advance for what I write here today. You should know this final installment in the “On Writing, On Wednesday” series is the result of my meandering mind, which woke me at 4:34 a.m. with words I needed to jot down in the notes app of my iPhone lest I fall back asleep, get up in the (more respectable) morning and remember nothing.  

Continue reading “On Writing, On Wednesday: Passion”

On Writing, On Wednesday: Write for You

“When you do something noble and beautiful and nobody noticed, do not be sad. For the sun every morning is a beautiful spectacle and yet most of the audience still sleeps.” – John Lennon

The minute you start writing for anyone other than yourself is the minute you lose the kind of authenticity that will make your writing great. Pleasing the reader is an ill-fated practice in ridding your prose of the distinct “you-ness” that draws him or her to your work in the first place. 

What is you-ness? Did I make that up? Yep, I did. Continue reading “On Writing, On Wednesday: Write for You”

On Writing, On Wednesday: Be Your Own Worst Critic

There’s a troubling dichotomy that exists in the mind of a writer between thinking what you’ve just crafted is the most brilliant prose to brush against the blank page and wanting to run so far away from your own writing you reach a distant land where words don’t exist and people communicate using only their left eyebrow.

Continue reading “On Writing, On Wednesday: Be Your Own Worst Critic”

On Writing, On Wednesday: If It Makes You Happy

My hut on the island has no windows, no doors, no light except for the coarse glow of a computer screen, blank and lonely as I am though my mind is hardly blank. The words fall past my fingertips, swirling like an inexorable tropical tempest fed by sadness, the eye of it ringed by fury, the edges by rejection. Yet on and on I write …

Before we get to today’s advice for the second of five posts in the On Writing, On Wednesday series, let’s toss the large elephant out of the room. Then we should apologize for being so rude to an elephant and then also apologize because elephants are endangered and why the heck are we keeping one in our room anyway? Still, we are and here it is: I am a cliché. Oh, a sulky, sensitive, introverted writer, how thoroughly unoriginal. But to that allegation I reply: Meh. I’m not going to apologize. I am who I am. (There. Elephant, tossed.)

Continue reading “On Writing, On Wednesday: If It Makes You Happy”

On Writing, On Wednesday: The Very First Line

This is stupid.

That’s the first thing I thought when the idea came to me to write about writing, which seemed no different from a balloon maker noodling up a poodle figurine at a circus side show and instead of selling it to the five-year-old cotton-candy-eater who wants one, telling the kid exactly how the thing was made. The child doesn’t care. Just sell the poodle-balloon and move on.

Balloons be gone, I filed the idea away with all my potential Shark Tank pitches—coincidentally, half involve poop bags for dogs—and carried forth composing little stories and pop culture-ish posts. But then as I frequently do, I surveyed some of my most devoted readers weeks later and asked what they thought of my recent content. Good? Bad? Anything else I should be focusing on? Over and over again the one topic that came up was this: Tell me how to write. Continue reading “On Writing, On Wednesday: The Very First Line”