14 Apr SQL University – Creative Writing Week
Last Fall I was the Basketball Coach for SQL University, and I loved being back on the hardwood. Some days I think the best place to be on a Friday Night in the Winter is in your home gym getting ready to play some hoop. Writing for SQL U last FALL helped bring back some very fond memories of my coaching days. I was happy to have served Dean Jorge (blog | twitter) well enough that he would invite me back this semester. Of course, with basketball season over, I needed to pick a different sport. We discussed all the possible openings such as baseball, track and field, golf, and rugby. But at the end of the day nothing felt right, so I decided to do things a little differently.
With Dean Jorge’s blessing I have been allowed to carve out my own unique faculty position as DBA Coach. Unlike my basketball practices, there won’t be any physical exertion necessary on your part this semester. What I intend to do instead is to provide you different focus areas and options for the weekly subject. And I will do this by breaking my levels in a similar fashion to my blogger rankings. For the resourcedb I will include links to books that I feel would be helpful as well.
Today’s topic is Creative Writing. Let’s get started!
If you want to get better at writing, then you need to get better at reading. How do you get better at reading? Well, by doing mroe reading, of course! Start reading everything you can. Books, magazines, newspapers, blog posts, bathroom stalls, it doesn’t matter. Read as much as you can and while reading start getting an idea for what strikes a chord with your own inner voice. Not everyone reads the same material in the same way. For example, consider the works of Shakespeare. For some, they think it is the most beautiful things they could ever hear. But others, myself included, would rather have nails on a chalkboard than to listen to a performance of The Tempest.
So, find what works for you. Find a particular author or columnist that you like and keep reading them for a period of time and try to make notes about what it is you like most about their style. Over time you will find similar authors and can read them as well. How will this happen? Simple, most authors will, from time to time, mention other books or articles that they like, and often time it is because the style of that author is something similar such that you may find it enjoyable as well.
Now that you have been doing more reading it is time to start doing some writing. First thing you need to do is find your own voice and style. If you simply try to copy someone else then you will always find yourself coming up short to an unattainable ideal. Find out what style parts you like from others and see if you can assimilate them into your own voice. Once you have an idea, start putting words to paper. It doesn’t have to be much, but it has to be something.
A while back I was given some advice from a writer when I explained that I often didn’t have anything to write about. They told me that a very simple trick is to write down, each day, a sentence or two. Even if the sentence was “I don’t have anything to write about today.” I lost track for the number of times that I would start with that very sentence only to have my mind wander, the pencil kept going, and before I knew what was happening there were two or three things for me to write about.
Still struggling with how to get started? Fine, keep it even simpler than all that, start with a checklist, or a to-do list. Go ahead, start making a list of items, and jot down a sentence about each item on the list. Let your mind do the rest, I bet you will find that in time your mind will wander around enough that something creative will be the end result. If checklists aren’t your bag, then go with some documentation. A favorite of mine is to document my SQL Servers, because then I get a chance to recall some history of a server and I always enjoy the chance to tell history from my point of view.
By now you should have at least been putting pen (or pencil) to paper. What’s that? Oh, fine, you use a computer instead. It really doesn’t matter. Please stop interrupting me because my laptop battery is about to die and I really don’t have time for you to lecture me about how many trees actually died to make both the pencil and the paper. Last time I checked, trees were a renewable resource, as opposed to the materials used in your computer…or even to power your computer. So stop lecturing me about who loves Mother Earth, because it doesn’t seem like you care all that much.
Anyway, get yourself started. Blogging is a great way to get started with creative writing. Writing articles can be another way, although you may find that some editors may not appreciate your style. That’s fine, it is more important for you to find a voice you are comfortable with. If someone wants you to change your style drastically, and you are not comfortable with the changes they suggest, then don’t change anything. Keep doing what you are doing and continue to search for ways to express yourself with the written word. For me, it’s this blog more than anything else right now.
I believe the key to good creative writing lies in your ability to have a conversation. The conversation can be with others or with yourself, it doesn’t matter who you talk with, and then you capture that narrative in words. Blogging and writing articles are two good ways for you to practice having such conversations.
If you are looking for a master when it comes to conversations and creative writing, look no farther than The Bloggess. Jenny is by far the most creative writer I am reading right now, but Tim Siedell (twitter) is also quite good but not as prolific as Jenny. His recent plan to fix our government was just, well, awesome to read. Both of these are what I consider to be masters of creative writing. Start with them for now and work your way outwards to find other creative masters.
Here are some books that I feel would be helpful with your writing and general communication skills.
The first one, Write From the Heart, does a great job in helping you to find your own voice. The books dives a bit too much into spirituality for my liking, but the point I want you to understand is that good writing is as simple as having a good conversation. If you have stories to tell, and especially oddball stories at that, then get your thoughts down onto paper and see where your mind takes you.
The next book listed, The Jelly Effect, is a fabulous book on how to communicate with others in a variety of situations. It has a lot of material on how to help you organize presentation materials. What I found interesting is that in a way you are always presenting yourself and the tips inside this book help you to overcome that fear. If you can get your creative juices going and be able to present them to others in an organized coherent way then you are going to be way ahead of hacks like myself.
I included the ProBlogger book because there are a lot of tips in there about how you can go about getting a blog started, how you can build something using your own voice, and how your blog can help foster your creative writing side. I’m not sure about the six figure income, but I suspect that the decimal point is not where I expected it to be. Your results may vary.