Slaying Writer Dragons: Epic Skill #1, Mental Prowess

Slaying Writer Dragons: Epic Skill #1, Mental Prowess

All right, brave writers of the MwP world. I wrote last week about why you really need to make writing a big dramatic event. So you feel like it’s worth doing. This probably indicates some deep failing on your part, but since we writers all have the same problem, we will just call it a strength and embrace it with all of our (not un-mighty) might.

For those of you who missed last week’s post, here’s the situation: your writing project is a big, bad dragon. You are a mighty warrior who must defeat this dragon at all costs. When you do, you are rewarded handsomely.

Got that? Good.

Now we need to make sure you have the skills to rock out this little scenario. Otherwise, you’d be one of those sad knights who appears in Monty Python movies and gets eaten by killer bunnies. No one wants to be that guy. We will make mighty writers out of you. You will defeat the bunny.

Say it with me, people: I will defeat the bunny.

Very good.

The first skill you’re going to need for your epic writerly quest is mental prowess. Why? Because your brain is what you use most when your quests involve pen and ink (or word processor and keyboard. Whatever). You need to train your brain.

There’s Something Wrong With Your Brain

Have you ever sat around for hours watching reruns of Project Runway or the Real World or something else equally mind-bogglingly idiotic like Survivor? Or read a book you’ve already read a kajillion times, just because you need that comforting entertainment of familiarity and routine?

Okay. This is basically lazing around for your brain. It is the equivalent of driving one block to the store instead of walking. And it is bad for your thought process.

You need to be creative to be a good writer. You need to be able to come up with new ways of saying the same old things. You need to craft metaphor and analogy. You need to retain and refer to knowledge you’ve acquired over the years to create images that help bring each concept to life.

And if you’re not in the habit of thinking, it’s going to be difficult.

Kicking Your Mental Faculties into High Gear

Learning to have a less lazy brain isn’t really that hard, but it does take a conscious effort. It’s rather like eating healthy food. No, it doesn’t take more effort to buy a peach instead of a chocolate bar, but if you aren’t thinking about eating healthy food, then you might not get that peach.

Same deal with your mental habits. Be more conscious of your choices and you’ll make better ones.

Start watching TV shows that make you think, instead of letting you turn your brain off. I personally love the hell out of Mad Men, and not just because it’s about copywriters (and designers and other ad types). It’s a clever show. It makes me think. It has good wordplay. It has interesting character types.

I wrote copy for one of those character types the other day, in fact. I did it very well, because I had been thinking about just what makes a stay-at-home mother tick. If I hadn’t been, I’d probably have had no idea how to talk to such a person, and the copy would have been much more generic.

And not nearly as good.

The same theory goes for your reading material. Start reading new and interesting things. Make note of new vocabulary and words. Start paying attention to different styles of writing and speaking. See if you can’t make use of them in your work. Jane Austen comes in surprisingly handy. So does T.C. Boyle. So does Bill Bryson. Find yourself some writers whose styles appeal to you – and to your clients.

If you’re not the reading sort, you can stimulate your thinking process in many ways. Talk to people more. Join a group that debates social issues and learn about them. Go to an art opening and talk with the artist. Check out museums.

Make yourself think on a regular basis and you’ll soon get in the habit of doing it all the time. You’ll become hooked on new thoughts, new ways of looking at the world.

And the next time you have a client who wants a fresh, new take on an old concept, you’ll be ready to slay that dragon without breaking a sweat.

That’s your mental training. Tune in next week when we’ll discuss emotional training (you know you need it. Writers always do).

But never fear! It involves absolutely no discussion of your feelings. Save that for your ice-cream nights. We’re going to be talking about emotional MIGHTINESS, and it will be pretty epic.

Post by Taylor

Taylor Lindstrom (fondly known as Tei) is a twenty-something copywriter and journalist from Boulder, CO. She’s the team’s rogue woman who wowed us until our desire for her talents exceeded our desire for a good ol’ boys club. She loves the color green, micro-point Uniball pens, and medieval weaponry.