If you like to write, if you dread putting words on paper or even if you’re looking for a hearty chuckle, this is a good book for you.
The chapters are short. The advice is good. The statements are witty. The assignments are fun and the tests you can’t get wrong. Also there are writer’s comments and helpful examples. Joel Saltzman wrote If You Can Talk, You Can Write after a five-year writing block, which he describes as agonizing. He promises, “This book is about getting you to write—with optimism, enthusiasm, and only occasionally wanting to kill yourself.”
Here are thirteen tips on writing from his book.
1. “It’s easier to write than not to write.”
2. Stop fighting yourself, just write. “Dead men float because they don’t do anything to prevent themselves from floating. Same goes for writing. If you don’t do anything to prevent yourself from writing (like throwing your arms up and screaming, ‘I can’t do this!’), chances are you’ll do just fine.”
3. “You don’t have to ‘write” at all. You just have to start talking on paper.”
4. Write what you want. Don’t worry about what other people think. “If you write about something that interests you, it will interest others.”
5. No one can produce ideal writing so don’t try. “Remember: No one can make it perfect. You can’t. I can’t. I don’t even want to.” And guess what folks, you don’t have to be perfect.
6. You can let yourself write badly. “Think of your first draft as a map to buried treasure: all the markers are there, but you still have a way to go.”
7. Again, don’t worry about writing, your first draft well. “Even the best writers never get it right the first time.”
8. Rewriting makes writing better. “The more whacks you take at it—the more you’re willing to work and rework your material –the better it gets.”
9. Don’t worry about what to say. “Remember: If you don’t know what to say, start saying it; keep ‘talking’ on paper until it starts talking back to you.”
10. You don’t have to have all the answers when you sit down to write. “If you don’t know what you’re trying to say at first, it’s okay; it’s the only way you get to say: ‘Now I know what I’ve been trying to say all this time!’”
11. You alone can express your unique personality in prose. You are the expert and the best recorder of your experiences and impressions.
12. Generally you don’t have to worry about grammar. “If you write the way you talk, you’ll probably be right.”
13. Nothing can be great all the time. “All you can do is try your best, then try again—with your next project, and the one after that. Along the way, you’ll develop technique, stamina and—if you’re lucky—the ability to make your next effort better than your last.”
Check out this book, especially if you’re hard on yourself and your writing. It might restore your love of writing or help you get through the prose you’re forced to produce. Or it might just be an easy and enjoyable read. But I bet you’ll like it.
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