The original working title of this potentially helpful and possibly delightful article about writing was going to be "The Top Ten Reasons To Write That Are Really Not Reasons To Write At All But Are In Fact Reasons Not To Be Writing."
Naturally, I rejected such a title as way too long, confusing, and uber-ironic, inasmuch as this is supposed to be (and really needs to be) a well written piece. I mean, if you are going to tell other people how they really write too much and perhaps they should just stop, you'll want to necessarily put out a quality composition on the subject.
Are you with me so far?
The truth is that I find most of what I read on the internet to be unimaginative, disorganized, and . . . . something else, but I just can't think of the word right now. It's not "algorithm," "euphemism," or "anecdotal," I am certain about that. See, when I can't think of the word I want, I have discovered that there is an eighty-four percent chance that it is one of those three. It got so bad that I finally wrote them down on a yellow sticky and attached it to my monitor here so that I could stop wasting so much time trying to think of one of them for the sentence I was trying to complete. You might well wonder about "algorithm," but I employ that word as a euphemism for people who try to use anecdotal evidence to make the more general point of their argument. Those folks drive me crazy, they really do.
Well, I always say that good writing simply must begin with an introduction of the author, so now that you have something of a feel for me as a person, we can begin the process of discovering exactly why the Top Ten reasons most people place so many of their words on the internet are not the reasons they should be using at all. Quite the opposite in fact.
And while lists aren't really writing, it is nearly always a good idea to include a list if you want to get your ideas to the front of the Google line, so to speak. This being the case, I have prepared a Top Ten list of helpful hints regarding heretofore conventional wisdom of whether one should write what one is getting prepared to write when the truth is that one really shouldn't write it. Here goes.
1. You have a passion for your subject. So? I like cheesecake. A lot! Can't seem to get enough of the stuff. But I don't really know anything about cheesecake and am certainly no authority on the matter other than my unavoidable desire to eat yours when you have gotten up to greet a friend at another table in the restaurant. So for me to write about cheesecake would bring nothing to the reader that would be of any import or significance whatsoever.
2. No one else has covered your subject in detail. Again I must respond with a question: So? It is in all probability very likely that people stopped writing about your particular topic because no one actually cares about it! Honestly, I shouldn't have to even say it.
3. You want to sell something. There could not possibly be a worse reason to write. If you want to sell something, you talk, you don't write. Salespeople don't write, they talk. Pick up the phone or go knock on someone's front door (not mine, I'm busy now), but do not write with the ulterior motive that it will sell something for you. That's just misdirected energy. And anyway, I thought of the idea first!
4. Being famous in any way and for any reason is quite appealing. Well, there is at least some truth in this one. If people know who you are then perhaps there is meaning in this particular universe for you as an individual. Still, writing just to be writing is no way to become famous and besides, you should hurl yourself into some religious or spiritual activity if you are concerned that there isn't enough meaning in your life. I know there are not nearly enough good Christian writers around and most of the churches with crosses out front seem to have plenty of space available for everyone. Just a thought. Do you have family or friends who are currently members of any recognizable denomination? That might be a good place for you to start. Again, just a thought.
5. Other people say you should write more. Do they? I mean, do they really? Or do you somehow goad them into saying it because you secretly want to write more? There is a difference here. Okay, so do this: Don't bring up the subject from your end in any way and see how many people actually respond to your written words with a request for more of them from you. That will help you decide if you should write things or if you just want to.
6. But writing is so very easy! We've known each other for a little while now and so I feel quite certain that you know exactly what I must think of this latest argument. Let's move along.
7. When you write, it makes you feel good. Try the cheesecake, it's to die for.
8. Lots of people write and they don't seem to have any particular talent for it either! Why do you think I am writing this article? Yes, lots of people do all sorts of things they have no particular talent for, but that hardly justifies your intruding upon the lives of others. I can only imagine what else goes through that active brain of yours. Too much time on Facebook and Twitter maybe? Well, just be sure to send them the link to this page so they can be harshly and justifiably corrected also!
9. There is real status in being a "writer." I am not so sure that this is true. There might be some status in writing well or being clever with words. Or perhaps there is even status in writing on topics that cause other people to think about a subject for themselves. But the whole "writer" thing seems so first half of the twentieth century to me. And Hemingway killed himself. You knew that, right? Shotgun is what I heard. Well, there's the Top Ten list Mr. Google seems to crave, so my work is done! Okay, so I only had nine reasons after all. This only proves that I am an author who knows his own limitations. That can be particularly important for a writer these days.
And anyway, this writing project has now completely changed my mind on the whole subject of writing anything. In fact, I now believe that you should go ahead and write anything you want. Really. Any darn thing at all. No one will force me to read it any more than someone is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to read this essay. After all no one held a gun to Hemingway's head.
Well, except for the great man himself.
I really think I should simply stop writing now.
David Douglas Ford
There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly;
sometimes it's like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.
- Ernest Hemingway