Writing Memoir

How can I be a better writer?

how-can-i-be-a-better-writer

It seems like everyone wants to be a writer these days, but that isn’t going to stop me from writing. When I started to pitch my first book to agents, let me tell you I got mightily discouraged from the lack of interest. I went through phases of wondering if I should even bother – to trying harder to figure out what I needed to do.

Nowadays I’m comfortable and happy with self-publishing {the missing teacher}. I’m reminded of how crazy it is to write a memoir and how vulnerable I have allowed myself to become. Yet, I can’t imagine not doing it. I think if you have something unique to say then say it. I’ve certainly sat with it long enough to know I needed to say what I wanted to say.

That being said, I think I can be a better writer by remembering to be patient. We definitely live in a “one click away” world, so it becomes infinitely easier to just write something for the blog and upload it immediately. But I think there is great value in waiting before you speak, at least in my case.

Being patient allows me to catch typos, fix clichés and awkward sentences. It also gives me a chance to think about whether or not I really want to publish something. Sometimes it’s already been said, better in fact, so I put it away and chalk it up to practice and work on something else to write.

I’m also starting to see the power in asking questions. I started off {the missing teacher} with a seemingly simple question: Was I a good teacher? This ultimately led me to ask other questions like, “Why was I fired?” and pursuing those answers until I found satisfactory ones. I realize now that by asking a simple question, I set myself up for a journey that ultimately became a quest and a book.

Warren Berger has written a series of Fast Company articles on asking questions and what they can do. So now, I have been asking myself questions like, “How can I take better care of myself?” and “How can I be a better blogger?” I love how [framing changes] into questions makes me feel like I can do it. It’s empowering and it feels like a fresh start.

Lastly, I want to remember to keep researching. In the past, when I wrote, I didn’t make that extra effort to find out that dog’s name or this restaurant’s address. But after reading about how important these details are in writing, I started to do more sleuthing. Now, I feel I am learning more, which is not only great for me, but for others who read my posts or stories.

A colleague and I often talk about how technology is affecting our students in the classroom. They can’t seem to stay off their smart phones. It’s fascinating how addicted they are to those little devices, and rather sad how their postures are being sacrificed for another round of Cookie Run.

Anyway, he found this Journeyman pictures video on “Being a digital nomad” and essentially what was revealed was how different age groups research and find information.

It should be no surprise that the younger generation finds the answers to their questions much faster and the older generation finds them slower. But the goalie kicker for me was the younger ones just grabbed the first answer they saw, while the older group took their time to do their research.

Ultimately, I want to provide value and understanding with what I share, so I want to do my research. I don’t want to be a lazy writer. Sometimes it’s a little maddening. For instance, when I’m trying to understand the world in which my father grew up in – China during its Civil War and ultimately its Cultural Revolution. This is a lot of history, wars and geography and then some. But I know that I cannot write about my family without a grasp on their environment.

I also sought out an old family friend who was an American GI during the Vietnam War who enjoyed a little R&R in Thailand because this was the time and place where my parents met. I had to get his perspective in order to understand this experience. My mom is Thai so she offers another point of view and since my father is dead I have to do a lot of research.

One day, if not now, I think it will pay off. I think stories will always be a necessary part of growing and learning and I hope to make a contribution to the greater narrative. Until then, I’m going to ask, “How can I be a better writer.”

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30 thoughts on “How can I be a better writer?

  1. ooh.. thought provoking post here lani. =) i hadn’t thought about that, about how young people these days find their answers quickly (e.g., ‘ask siri’) in contrast to the older generations who will still find the answers, but research more thoroughly.

    it reminds me of when i was researching to contribute to a history book and spent hours in the library on a microfiche reader. it took forever but i found some gold mines in there, from articles written over 30 years ago. it was really cool…

    yet i don’t see kids these days doing that kind of study and research. what a shame!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The lost art of research, eh? I remember sitting in front, of what would be considered today massive desktops, with all my references (open books) around me trying to work on my college papers.

      These days everything is so accessible via the Internet which is great. REALLY great for someone like me living abroad. However, what was interesting about the study was how the younger folks were not concerned with accuracy, but getting things done as quickly as possible.

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      1. Butting in…

        I once worked as the assistant of the Mass Comm. department head of a tertiary school. Not sure now if it was me who first noticed it or her, but a lot of her students seemed to have copied off reviews of Romeo and Juliet from the Net.

        She asked me to go through all the submissions and sure enough, I found a lot of plagiarists. They were obvious because one, suddenly, kids who couldn’t express themselves well especially in English were good at it. Second, I found some whose words were copied and pasted in verbatim. The worst–and most funny, I must add–were those who simply copy-pasted that they even accidentally copied the links! Obviously, those last ones were either almost clueless about it or were just too in a hurry and careless not to double-check.

        Oh, it caused a stir because most of them failed the subject, and they were supposed to be graduating students, I think. The parents complained so my boss faced all of them and explained. A swell-headed kid supposedly bound for honors demanded that she not be given a failed grade and kept denying what she did. My boss did not budge. The student and her parents tried the scare tactic by having a lawyer send a complaint with a threat to sue and my boss promptly replied with a no and even an insult to the lawyer to get his facts straight. So nothing came out of their tactic. The other parents accepted the decision after having been explained to, and the parents of those most funny kids could not even hide their disappointment for their own kids’ stupidity.

        What bothered me, though, was an obvious fact that most of them did not really seem to know that what they were doing was wrong. The world is still quite clueless about what constitutes plagiarism.

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      2. I think this problem is prevelant in Asia, mostly. In Thailand, cheating is considered okay and copying homework, standard. Thailand throws a lot of money at education, but they work under the motto, “Work harder, not smarter” and so many students just cave to the pressure and work load by cheating.

        Left the links! The links! *face palm*

        Liked by 1 person

      3. LOL!!! I actually laughed aloud when I discovered the first paper that left the links!

        And another thing. Some didn’t even choose their sources well and simply went to the first links that Google churned out. This was pre-Panda era so you can very well guess the quality of some of those reviews.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I am still a person who would prefer any time some real book in their hands when reading and also when researching over just doing it on a screen/ smartphone. For example my graduation work from university was a mix of both systems however I could quickly see what make the modern technology so interesting as I could find everything relevant with just few keywords and clicks away while I had to read whole chapters in the physical books…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like it that you brought up questioning things when writing a book. I’ve planned out the chapters of my book and have so many questions I want to answer in all of them… Ultimately, by questioning we learn to see the bigger picture and even start to question our own thoughts and arguments. And researching is important as it helps us to see what has already been said out there and come up with our own original arguments. I expect to do a lot of researching in the coming months…

    Love the new blog look, Lani 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for noticing the blog look. You’re the only one to say something!

      I had no idea you were writing a book. I’m excited for you. Have fun 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My eyes are forever wandering and noticing 😉 I’ve been planning on writing a book for the last six months, chapter plans are out already. But many people are very surprised I’m writing a book 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s like reading my thoughts 😉

    I do tend to do a Google search now more than do an actual open-a-book research. But one thing about me is I make sure I get credible info from credible sources as much as possible. I can even take more time even if I Google because I want to get the facts right.

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  5. After spending ten years homeschooling my two daughters I can not think of a more boring topic for me than education. I have your book and have begun reading it in spite of my lack of interest in education.

    It turns out your book is more about the insights you gain about yourself which is interesting. Also, your engaging clever writing style steps up to save the day. Now I Am hooked and reading a couple of chapters each day.

    A thought on technology and the younger generation hooked on it: When driving in a new area north of Chicago I decided to use dead recogning and drive east because I knew that was the general direction home. My daughter and her girlfriend pulled out their iPhones and chastised me for heading the wrong way. Researching maps later it did turn out my route was a minute longer.

    For both of them there was only one possible route and it was the same for both of them. Any other route was unthinkable. I have made so many discoveries by wandering that I will never give it up. For them wandering is a wrong answer and they will never know the joy of unexpected discoveries as I have.

    Fyi, I am in CM and wanting to visit CR soon. Would enjoy meeting you for coffee or whatever. I hope we can make it happen.

    Regards,
    Jim

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sure, if our schedules work that would be nice. And yes, wandering. I envy folks who have a good enough sense of direction to wander and explore. We can learn new ways and better routes and discover all sorts of things along the way. I’ve never used a GPS and I don’t plan on it anytime soon.

      I’m glad you are still enjoying the book 🙂 Cheers.

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  6. This is so perfect for me right now! I have been trying to work on exactly what you talk about here. I have been sitting on posts and then going back to them later. I am also starting to research through contacting other people that I know have experience with whatever the topic is. I like the idea of really pausing to ask questions though. I want to do more of that too.

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    1. Yes. I think forcing ourselves to be patient will help us to write better. I’m often itching to get something out, but I tell myself to wait until I look at it again, like in the morning when I’ve had a good night’s rest. And sometimes it’s interesting to just see how you feel about a particular post. Why am I scared to say this? Should I say this? and so on.

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  7. Kudos to you, Lani for wanting to write yet another book. I have a niece who dropped out of her geological engineering career and took up romance writing.

    I’m such a lazy slut…I discovered a long time ago, I have no interest in writing books nor short stories. So I consider blogging just a lazy Jean’s way of shorthand writing stuff.

    Writing is a serious craft. So is journalism. Both skills for full-time careers are becoming downgraded in terms of pay because of probably the plethora of “free” information and need to write in short bytes from corporations that hire writers to hold their audience’s shorter attention span.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahhaa. Never thought of blogging as a lazy writing because it does take some discipline!

      I know I’m crazy to start on another book, but I feel like this is what I’m supposed to do, so I better just get on it. And the next one can’t take nearly as long as the first one – that would be end of me, for sure 😛

      Unfortunately, the competition is still and tough, but maybe I’ll get lucky. Thanks Jean.

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  8. I definitely believe the thing about younger generations settling for the first answer, but also that flaw is easier to counter than slow researching by knowing that you tend to do that. I was exactly like that when taking exams in college and would never slow down enough to catch stupid mistakes (Blargh, orgo!!!)

    I really enjoyed this style of writing in a blog form! I don’t think many bloggers do this nowadays so it’s always refreshing to read something like this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think eventually the younger generation will have to slow down and realize the fastest way isn’t always the best way. And multi-tasking is not always a great idea. But who knows!

      Thanks, btw. I’m noticing so many trends with blogs and I’m trying to do my own thing and avoid following along. So, thanks for noticing 🙂

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  9. “if you have something unique to say then say it” – I love that, Lani. It’s so true. I think sometimes people don’t believe in themselves enough and think they don’t have a story to tell, but we all do! I have been stalking some of your previous blog posts and I think you’re an amazing writer! I cannot wait to read your book! 🙂 Hope you are doing well, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww, thank you Mia. What a GREAT way to start the day. I hope you and your family are doing well, too!

      Actually, I like what you took out of my post. We all have a story to tell, believe in yourself and then tell it!

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  10. Guess what? I finished the book! Two kids had the stomach flu this week, which gave me a lot of reading time. It was such a fast read – the writing flowed well and I was always anxious to know what was going to happen next. Great read – congratulations again. I actually came away thinking that Waldorf was much less cult-ish than I originally thought/suspected. I like your thoughts about how all organizations are ultimately businesses. And also liked how you kept a positive perspective on the Waldorf school as a whole, and walked away still taking with you the thoughts/practices of the school that worked for you. x.o.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is probably as good as it gets! Thanks so much Lani. I was concerned that people would think I was anti-Waldorf, so I’m very glad to hear that it didn’t come off that way. Truly, such nice things to hear. Although, I hope the kiddies are on the mend. BIG hug and lots of love.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I LOVE this post. Be patient–that took me so long to learn. I’d get so excited when I was inspired that sometimes I’d publish on my blog without giving it proper “breathing time.” I need to step away from the things I’m writing & come back later to edit. It gives me a fresh perspective & typically I catch things I would have missed had I just rushed. This whole post was great, Lani!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. Believe me, I need the reminder, too. Even after I wait a day before I post, I’m chomping at the bit (if I was a horse) and tellng myself to WAIT.

      Glad you liked the post. Happy writing.

      Like

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