(Editor’s Note: Writer and BEST guest blog contributor, Isaac Peterson, shares his tips on creativity and sharing the written word with others. Thank you, Isaac, for this valuable and inspiring information! KT).
I was just thinking back on my pre-stroke life as an investigative journalist and how much it helps me with writing and blogging. What I came up with made me decide to do another piece about writing that I hope might help those who’ve told us they also want to write.
Here it goes.
First, I think one of the things that made me a good investigative reporter was being almost unnaturally curious. You can be an investigative reporter without being overly curious, but I doubt you’d be as good as you could be.
I also think the ability to ask questions can help with any kind of writing, including blog writing.
There are supposedly some W words that make for good journalism: who, what, why, where, and when.
I felt free to add one of my own: what if?
It helped lead me in some interesting directions as a reporter, and it’s helping me as a blogger.
I came up with the essay about traumatic brain injuries in household pets by asking myself, what if animals can get brain injuries? After all, they have brains and nervous systems.
After a little research, I found they can. and do, experience traumatic brain injuries, and I wrote about it.
Another piece about lucid dreaming came from asking, what if dreaming has anything to do with visualizing or daydreaming?
Since I didn’t know anything about either subject, I had to do some homework (this where the what comes in, another essential question). Never be afraid to do your homework about what you don’t know or are unsure of. It’s not like when I had to read legal briefs and trial transcripts, but you do what you have to do to do a good job. I’ve written a lot of blog entries that needed some research first, and I don’t mind—it’s essential.
I wonder can also open up your creativity. This one can also involve some researching. One example that led to me writing a blog entry was not long ago, asking myself, is there a difference between brain injury and brain damage?”
It took some serious researching trying to answer that one.
After you’re done researching, I find it helpful to look at all the things you learned and then ask other W questions.
Where is the story in here?
What story does all this information tell?
If you do this with your own writing you may be surprised at the places you are led. That’s one of the biggest joys of writing.
Assemble your points in logical order or whichever approach you think might work better. Whatever will help your writing come alive is just fine.
After you’ve figured out the best way to assemble your piece, don’t be afraid to try different formats and styles. This is a good time for what if.
What if it’s okay to be creative and unorthodox with your writing? Answer: it’s perfectly fine to break rules about grammar, syntax and form. That’s one of the things that will make your writing come alive. Give your writing your own individual stamp. That’s one thing I like more than when I was committing journalism—I can use slang and make my work recognizable as my own since I often use grammar and syntax in my writing that resembles the way I talk.
When you’re writing, be able to constantly ask yourself, what if I could have done this a little better?
Don’t be afraid to be critical of what you’ve written. One way to find the answer to that what if is to let someone else read what you’ve written before it’s published—someone who can serve as an editor.
There’s much more to tightening up your writing, but most of that you’ll learn by actually writing and continually asking yourself questions.
You might use these tips to tighten up your own writing and to open up your creativity.
You’re seeing my writing in this space as an indirect result of something I wondered while I was still lying in a hospital bed after my stroke: What if I will still be able to when when I get out? and What if I used my energy trying to help other people going through what I’m going through?
I’m never done asking myself questions. The way I see things, submitting a piece isn’t always the end of the process—I’m always questioning myself up until the time an essay is published.
Isaac Peterson grew up on an Air Force base near Cheyenne, Wyoming. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, he embarked on a career as an award-winning investigative journalist and as a semi-professional musician in the Twin Cities, the place he called home on and off for 35 years. He also doesn’t mind it at all if someone offers to pick up his restaurant tab. Peterson also welcomes reader comments. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.