Writing, for me, is a bit like a strip tease.
Not literally stripping for the readers, obviously. You would never get any work done, and you might get slapped with a restraining order, or just slapped, depending on what genre of writing, physique-wise, describes your body of work.
I don’t even mean baring your heart and soul to your readers through your work – for one thing, you can’t bare your soul when making a list of the 50 Biggest Social Media Fails, or whatever blog topic strikes your fancy on a given day. I’m talking about the writing process itself.
You start with glittery conceits, the longest words you can comfortably use, and half-formed metaphors that stirred your mind at 3 in the morning, then slowly strip away what you don’t need until you uncover the bare essentials of what – you suddenly discover – you wanted to say all along. When it’s going well, it’s a high-toned burlesque extravaganza, perhaps with a Star Wars theme. Other times you’re visiting that rundown airport strip club whose VIP lounge always has a disturbingly sticky floor. Either way, you can’t look away if you want to get anything done.
It’s not always easy to strip words from your writing. But the more you cull, the better you’ll like what you write – or, at least, there will be less of the writing to embarrass you. And you’ll sometimes find something unexpected and entirely different than what you thought you were writing. What started as a description of a Sunday hike to a creek’s backwater turns into an evolving study on time, change, and watching your daughter grow up as you figure out how to age gracefully yourself.
When you’re willing to give up that delightfully obscure reference that made you feel clever, or that snappy introduction that suddenly doesn’t fit where you want to go, you’ll be far more likely to entertain your readers.
Oh, and for those of you who clicked hoping for entirely different advice: be sure to pick a setting, costume, lighting, and music that make you comfortable in your skin. Own it, and good luck.