You’ve probably heard the age-old adage of “show, don’t tell” at least a thousand times in your writing career so far. It’s arguably one of the most-used writing tips about. Why then, is it also the one mistake most writers make over all others?
I heard “show, don’t tell” so many times, it became a useless mantra to chant, rather than put into action. I had no idea that by ignoring it, I was actually writing flat, monotonous narrative.
So, what does it mean to show and not tell? Well—it all comes down to drama.
If you’re someone who writes regularly—even more so if you write for others as well as your own platform—the demands can easily take their toll, right? You find yourself writing to formula, and if you’re not careful the demands of writing can become a deafening cacophony of noise in your head.
Fortunately, a simple writing exercise might be just the thing to need to jumpstart your creativity and help you rediscover your creative voice.
I’ll start with the bad news.
Much of what you’ve heard about daily routines is more fictional than the stories you’re writing. Everyone seems to have their own “key” to productivity: motivation, willpower, passion, and big goals being the most common.
While these all have the vague ring of truthiness, you’ve probably noticed that, in practice, the results of such methods are inconsistent to nonexistent.
Fortunately, there’s a simple cure.
How do you write memoir and tell a story that is compelling to you, but might not be to your reader?
Boredom is death for a writer and must be avoided at all cost. When writing memoir, the facts of a person’s life will fall short if that’s all you have to offer. You need something more if you want the story to come to life in the heart, mind, and imagination of the reader.
In his classic memoir On Writing, Stephen King writes, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” The latter is, of course, what this blog is all about (writing a lot). But I’m convinced that most writers ignore the former: reading a lot. (Or at the very least, they don’t read thoughtfully.)
If you’re like most people, you bounce from book to book haphazardly. What you read from month to month and year to year is simply not something you carefully consider.
But if you call yourself a writer and your goal is to become a better one, you do yourself a great disservice by not reading voraciously and thoughtfully.