I am a bad writer. And I have not died to admit it. In fact, I have graphic material to prove it.
No. I’m not staying with you. I have official documentation showing that I am a mediocre writer. And I’m not just talking about rejection letters from editorials or friendly emails telling you that you are out of a literary contest, because the organizers need a space for their colleagues and lovers. I mean that I have official documentation from the State. There are report cards from my school and my institute, with official stamps showing that I was bad at writing.
If during my journey through education – from kindergarten to the end of my studies – someone had deigned to make a list of all the students, scoring the best writers, I would be among the last … Maybe the last. In fact, I was failed an exam because my writing was “out of order” … whatever that is.
I do not need an official document to confirm it. I already know … I don’t know why I would have to pay anyone to tell me the same thing … I know. That is our superpower as writers, deep down, we know them: we are bad at writing . We all have that insistent little voice that tells us: «ñá, what you’ve written isn’t that good either. Go to the bar and stop being silly.
The drinking game! Succeeding among young people since year 0
The life of the mediocre writer
Eventually, an interesting thing happened, all of them continued with their careers and I was a bit on the sidelines. While they went to university and had fun, I studied from home, worked, and did two things: read a lot and write what I could. For a while, while they all had jobs and I didn’t — life jokes — I dedicated myself to improving my skills.
I became a hermit. I spent a couple of years – the two years before I met my partner – locked up at home. I dedicated myself to improving as a writer. And I did it in a disproportionate way. Why? Because he was frustrated with life.
Also, since I’m fatal in math, I didn’t understand how I was going to improve my skills… So I thought: very simple, work like a donkey and you will improve. The formula seemed very simple:
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 4
But he was wrong … And a lot. Improving a skill is not a matter of adding, you don’t put more drops in the glass … improving a skill works exponentially. At first, it is only a few drops, then you advance from glass to glass, until you have to use pools.
1 + 2 + 4 + 8 + 16 = 31
If you don’t believe me, I invite you to do a very simple experiment. Look for one of my first articles and compare it with this one or with any of my most recent articles. The change is brutal. By this, I do not mean that I am now a great writer, but I can tell you that I have improved somewhat since I started a ghostwriting agency.
As I commented last week and as I said in some comments, I think it is right now that I have found my true voice. There are some who are great artists, others are wonderful teachers, a few are both and there are those who are simply prophets. I thought he was a good teacher and, although I am not bad at it, I think I move better in the parable than in the periodic table.
It’s a bit strange to say this when the article is about tips. But you’ll see that more than advice, they are like that moment when your mother tells you: “take the little cardigan that is going to refresh.” You can put them into practice or not, surely you will already be doing it.
Well, they have helped me, so I want to share them with you. I’m not selling you magic formulas or mycusmecus powders that are going to turn you into Rowling overnight. I am going to tell you what I did so that my readers would stop thinking that Spanish is not my mother tongue.
I have told you before about that Jiminy Cricket. That little voice that we have inside our heads and tells us that we are not good at what we do. Well, you may not be very good, in fact, you may be really bad. But that does not matter. Fuck that bitch. Make it shut up. Write bad, good or regular.
While you’re writing, you don’t allow your internal editor to stick their noses into your manuscript.
I recommend that you also load the editor in you, at least until you finish the story. Once you’ve finished writing, use dark magic to resurrect him and have him proofread your manuscript. Otherwise, it will be impossible for you to write anything with a guy correcting you every word … have you tried to talk to someone who constantly interrupts you? Well, that.
Hook your reader
Any story should begin in the most intense part of the story arc. It starts there, no matter what is happening. Forget about breakfasts, snacks, and train rides in the rain. Be like Bud Spencer: the one who gives first gives twice. Hit the reader on all sides.
I like to tell my students: “I’ll explain it to you as if we were at the bar.” Well, do that yourself. Imagine you’re at the bar, start each story with something like this: “Did I tell you about that time I escaped from a Chinese women’s prison?”
The David theory
They say that one day in Renaissance Florence a bunch of smart guys approached Michelangelo and said, “It must have been screwed up to create David, right?” Michelangelo, who was very cute, looked them up and down and said: «Not at all! All I had to do was remove everything that was not David from the marble.
Guess what! You can’t publish a blank page – well, you can if your name is Cecil Cecil and you’re a concept artist or a jerk – you can’t edit a blank page either. The only thing you can publish and edit is a text.
The key to writing is to allow yourself to misspell. Write bad, fatal, or worse. But write. Write a lot. Write well and don’t look with whom. Once you have the written text, you can dedicate yourself to editing and doing like Michelangelo; remove everything that is not part of your text.
Don’t tell me, tell me
Have you ever noticed how bad Spanish dubbing is? Do you know why? Because they sound forced, it shows that they are reading. They sound false and that, the viewer notices.
The same thing happens with literature. I speak the way I write, my article last week was written with my own voice, with my bad jokes and my tails and you know what, buddy? It reached the reader. Because it didn’t sound like a speech, it wasn’t like I had dictated the article to you, surely you saw me out there, with my glasses and my unfriendly face.
Write as you speak and you won’t sound literary or robotic. If in your real life you do not use expressions such as trap, cancel, or verdant, do not embed them in the reader.
The value of added value
Cut the crap. Don’t put shit. That simple I always say it: meatballs are made fat with meat, not with bread or sawdust.
Find your place
I had been reading for a long time that you need to have a sanctuary, a place for you away from the madding crowd to write. I personally and may those who gave this advice forgive me, I thought it was bullshit.
Until I had to spend a season working from an office. When I had free time I wanted to write, but when I tried I couldn’t. It’s that simple … I started to hit the key but I didn’t really feel like I was writing and that pissed me off. It just didn’t come out … I kept looking at the page and thinking: What am I doing?
I ended up closing the document and going to the coffee machine.
Find a place where you write quietly and always write from there. If you are lucky and you focus anywhere, take advantage of it.
Read, take notes and repeat
It won’t be the first time I’ve said it, but you have to read a lot to write a little. Reading is a healthy habit that cures many ills — especially ignorance. Don’t focus on reading what you like. I was lucky to have to read wonderful books on Anthropology and History. Read fiction and non-fiction, in reading you are allowed to be promiscuous, take advantage.
Take notes when you read. Do not commit everything to memory. She is often a traitorous bastard. If you particularly like a phrase or structure, copy it — I have several notebooks with extracts of what I am reading. Many of my best ideas have arisen from one or around one of those phrases.
Si vis pacem, para bellum
The phrase – which is not from Julius Caesar – is from a Roman military writer named Vegetius. The original phrase was: “Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet Bellum.” Although the original phrase was conditional – He who wishes for peace, should prepare for war. The one that has come down to us means that if you really want peace, prepare for war.
I don’t think there is much more to say. You have to fight for what you want. That easy. For me, the fight has always been on a personal level. At first, he did not believe in what he was doing, he did not put passion, he wrote more out of greed than out of love of art. He wrote out of doubt – is this what I want to do? Is this what I want to write? And that showed.