Ignacy Paderewski

5 Quick Tips for Writing Better

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writingIf you are like me, the amount of material on how to write better can be overwhelming. Bookstores, websites, blogs, seminars, etc. make it hard to choose which direction to go, especially when there seems to be a media format for just about every imaginable genre.

The wise King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 12:12, “My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” (ESV)

So, here are five quick tips, in no particular order, to help you write better.

1. Write for yourself!

You MUST like what you write. I love watching cooking shows like Top Chef. One of the maxims food critics and judges live by is that a chef must stand behind his or her dish. Stand behind what you write because your words should be a reflection of YOU!

2. Don’t imitate others!

You will NEVER write like Tom Clancy, James Michener, or J.K. Rowling. The simple reason is this — YOU are not Tom Clancy, James Michener, or J.K. Rowling. If you are ever going to be successful as a writer, set your own rules that define what you are or what you want to become. Be yourself.

3. Use available tools!

You do NOT have to spend large amounts of money to purchase specialized software, to go to seminars, or to take advanced classes on writing. Research what is available. For example, Open Office is a free word processing software that includes spell and grammar checkers. Use them liberally. There is little that is hard to endure than glaring spelling or grammatical errors that could have been easily fixed with an extra minute using a free available tool.

4. Write, write, write!

This should be self-explanatory, but it seems that some who want to be a writer think that staring at a screen will improve their chances of making a best seller list. Write on paper, computer, clay tablet, or even paper napkins at your favorite restaurant. Write on a mountain, on a train, or in a box. Write in English, Hindi, Russian, or Mandarin. JUST WRITE!

5. Be a drudge!

Ignacy Paderewski was a master concert pianist. It is said that at one concert, a woman was enamored with him and his playing. After several minutes of this unwanted attention, the great pianist is said to have stopped her and said, “Madame, before I was a genius, I was a drudge!”

Don’t worry about whether you are good right now. Write and write — going from drudge to genius will take care of itself.

A Drudge First?

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Ignacy Paderewski is not a name well-known in many households today. He was born in a city now located in Ukraine.

However, he was hugely instrumental in seeking the favor of President Woodrow Wilson to help Poland became an independent nation that was not part of the Russian Empire.

However, for those who know music well, the name Paderewski is synonymous with the playing and composing of classical music.

At just 18 years of age, and as a mark of the skills he had particularly in playing the piano, this man was offered the opportunity to become a teacher at the Warsaw Conservatory, which is one of the largest and oldest music schools in Europe.

Over the course of his life, he gave many concerts around Europe and the United States.

It is said that at one concert, a woman was enamored with him and his playing. After several minutes of this unwanted attention, the great pianist is said to have stopped her and said, “Madame, before I was a genius, I was a drudge!”

Each of us has the ability to do what we want with our lives.

However, many of us do not avail ourselves of the opportunities that present themselves. We might want to take advantage of them, but we are not willing to be a drudge first.

For example, I might say that I would LOVE to expertly play an instrument, or that I would LOVE to speak fluent Mandarin. The reality is that I do not play an instrument with a great degree of skill, nor do I speak fluent Mandarin.

The question is not whether I have the ability to do either of those two things for I have the ability to take lessons and learn how to play.

The real question is this

What am I willing to give up in order to become good at what I say I love?

A person who wants to be the best in their business will spend time researching and studying the lives of those who have been successful.

A person who wants to play an instrument must be willing to turn off the television and spend hours mastering the scales and arpeggios.

A person who wants to become fluent in a different language needs to find others who speak that language and learn the nuances of the language as well as the culture.

The truth is this. While I say that I would LOVE to expertly play an instrument, I do not really WANT it bad enough to make the necessary sacrifices.

I am not willing to become a drudge in order to be considered a genius in the field of music.

It is particularly true in the West that we live in a fast-paced society and culture. We want instant gratification. Why take years to learn scales and arpeggios if somebody could wave a wand and magically impart such a skill to us?

I am glad that there is no such wand for we would not have great appreciation for the skills and years required to become a genius.

If we want something bad enough, we MUST learn to make sacrifices. We MUST be willing to learn from others. We MUST stop trying and thinking that shortcuts will still allow us to become a genius.