Many writers start out creating content, novels, etc. and overlook the types of writing they may have done in their history of regular 9-5 jobs.
Whatever that writing may have been, I’ve found it profoundly impacted my writing style today.
Following a chronological path from school through jobs held, I can see where certain habits were picked up and where attitudes and leanings, both positive and negative, changed as I developed.
In school, I followed the style of the instructor. The best teachers I had taught a basis of grammar and spelling but encouraged me to develop and express my own unique style.
Looking back, I realize now that had to be incredibly difficult for instructors who were themselves writers and could show appreciation or contempt for all of the glorious styles this world of words entails.
In college, I wrote for the school newspaper and followed the 5 Ws, often referred to as “the reporter’s questions” who, what, when, where, and why. I interned at the city paper, first restricted to writing boring wedding and funeral announcements, then moved up to feature stories.
Our small college had a media center with a new director, Kyle Northway. We produced a televised show, primarily consumer reporting, quickly expanding into various features. I have always enjoyed interviewing people and was a modeling subject for college photography classes. Kyle chose me by looking through the photo binder of the photography instructor, John Christensen, for young, photogenic females, his successful marketing ploy for a small-town audience, as the show broadcast over a local TV station. He considered the fact I was a journalism major a happy coincidence. Under his guidance, I was lucky to be given off-campus assignments he didn’t personally have time to take; one was an hour-long video on child abuse in Kern County, California. I was the writer and the talent.
I had the opportunity to do live television for the town’s giant every five-year celebration of all things petroleum. There I mingled with professional media and decided not to pursue broadcast news as a career for personal reasons.
I had been editing the school literary magazine while I worked on the above assignments, so my life was immersed in the written word.
As an adult working with at-risk kids as a Youth Services Counselor in a state-funded facility, I had to write factual, legally subpoenable documentation on each resident at the end of each shift. It had to be handwritten due to the shortage of computers, and one counselor could write the summary with other staff initialing the passage. No editing allowed that couldn’t be read, white-out was verboten, and the audience was anyone with a legal right to view the confidential documentation. Basically, I wrote with the knowledge that, at some point, I might have to listen to the passage reviewed out loud in court and cross-examined on the why’s and wherefores of what I had recorded. Makes an internet audience pale by comparison.
I never stopped writing fiction and have dabbled in poetry.
Currently, I write emails to clients and colleagues and ghostwrite letters to the IRS and state authorities in response to a tax notice to one of the clients. The CPA reviews and signs. I also follow a very strict stylized format in writing financial papers.
So, with all these different writing goals and styles, I have picked up some good habits and tried to minimize the poor ones.
My biggest issue is overwriting, often called “Info-dumping,” where the writer gives too much information in massive, mind-numbing paragraphs. My other bad habit is my inner critic, who second-guesses every thought on the page. I have managed to wrestle these two with some success.
I’m finding that dealing with the inner critic first works well in handling the info-dumping. I type, looking at the keyboard, very quickly. I refrain from looking up and just ride out a thought, recording it as it happens, then allow myself to revise and edit. It is a lot like treating a compulsion. Small controls can make a big difference in the long run.
In editing large blocks of information, I utilize Grammarly, but even there, I need to control accepting whatever is suggested and honor my talent and sense of style. Grammarly and I often disagree on sentence structure and content; I get the final say.
In addition, I have found that using text-to-speech applications allows me to turn away from the written word, my one true love, and hear the passage as it is spoken. I do have to allow for the lack of expression in most speech applications, but I can adjust for that, albeit with some eye-rolling and muttering on my part at the bland voice it produces at times.
I would be interested in what tricks and tips other writers use to handle various writing habits, whether to eliminate or develop them.
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