SRQ Magazine | September 2016
Words matter to Eric Sheridan Wyatt, so much so he takes the skills learned in a creative writing MFA program and uses them to coach students, retirees and first-time writers on how to bring their words to life. A successful writer himself as well, Wyatt has published short fiction in numerous reviews as well as his own collection Five Stories. But if given the opportunity to be a full-time writer, he wouldn’t take it, he says: “There’s something about teaching and editing—there’s a mentor/mentee relationship, you are able to help mold someone into telling their own story.”
SHERIDAN WYATT’S FIVE TIPS FOR WRITERS
Write and Skype
This one is all about accountability. Sit down at your computer and Skype/FaceTime, etc. with another writer friend while you commit to spending a specific amount of time writing—silently. The person on the other side of the screen can see if you get up, stop or get distracted. There’s some social pressure that’s put on. It keeps you honest.
I don’t believe in writer’s block—I think there is always something to write about. Sometimes we hit a wall when we can’t write about what we think we’re supposed to write about, or most want to write about. The best way around that—just write something. I suggest morning pages: Every morning write three pages, stream of consciousness, put the pen to paper, don’t stop until you get three pages filled. The idea is movement—get creative momentum. Usually you’ll find something there that you can work with, or your brain gets tired of it and you break your original thought free.
The Story is Separate from the Text
You have to begin to wrap your mind around making a text function how it’s supposed to function. Drafting and editing and revising (and revising and revising) then become a way to just reshape the text, separate from the story. Deconstruct some great literature and see how those stories work.
Get Good Feedback
Write, get feedback, revise: doing that cycle over and over again is where writers are made—it’s the only way to get quantitative improvement. To use a golf analogy: if I’ve never picked up a golf club, I could watch the pros on TV and get some sense of how to play, but I would hit the balls and they won’t go anywhere. The best way for me to make a real leap is to get a pro to stand with me and tell me how to hold the club, how to stand. You practice, they come back, you refine and you go back to practicing. That’s when you begin to know instinctively what’s working.
Transcribe Your Favorite Book
Take your favorite book of all time and copy it—word for word, period for period, comma for comma. It gets that momentum going, it helps you maintain creative rhythm. It won’t keep you from writing in your own voice. It gets you in a literary state of mind. We have this idea that we will go out into the world and wait for the “muse” to strike—if the muse grabs us by the hair back to our keyboards then we will write something. There’s a lot more to maintaining a prolific writing life; it comes down to putting your butt in the seat and doing it.
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