July 17

Is your writing ambitious enough?

    Mark Bowden said, as a writer, you should always be working on the most ambitious thing you have ever done.

    Is your writing ambitious enough?

    Think of the last piece of writing you were working on. Set it in your mind. Is this a significant piece of writing? Does it truly matter in your life? Is it of any consequence, really?

    We often believe that our writing skill is fixed. We’re either a good writer, or we’re not, and maybe we can become incrementally better over time. And maybe some days are particularly good writing days, while others are abnormally bad writing days.

    So, we have our writing skill, such as it is, we simply apply it to a topic, and we start writing. That’s how it works, right? The project will be as good or as bad as our current writing abilities.

    But Mark Bowden’s suggestion (or my interpretation of his suggestion) turns these assumptions upside-down.

    The quality of your writing depends on how much you care about the writing project.

    When you are passionate about a subject, you feel your heart pick up beat just a bit. Your blood seems to pump just a little stronger. Your brain seems to think just a little faster. There’s an energy radiating about you. I’m not saying this from some New Age perspective. From a purely biological standpoint, your passion and excitement about a project causes true physiological changes in your body.

    And, yes, those changes affect the quality of your writing. I can guarantee you, when you’re writing about something that matters to you, something that you believe matters to the world, you will write better. You will use more direct language. You will use more powerful descriptors. You will use more active verbs. You will strive to move the reader’s heart with your words. And you will be more likely to succeed because, well, you care.

    Work on your most ambitious writing project, or don’t write at all.

    Whoa. I have to admit, I caused myself to pause when I wrote those words.

    Yes, I know life is difficult and places constraints on your time and your energy. You have a job, a pile of miscellaneous tasks, people to take care of in your life. I get it. Take care of life, sure. Grade those papers. Write up those memos. Balance those accounting books.

    But sometime in your week (every week), you must make time to write ambitiously. Write on the project that matters most to you.

    If you were going to die in one year, what would you write?

    Make progress on your most ambitious writing project for at least 2-3 hours every single week. Or you might as well not write anything at all. Because you will only be the best, most effective, most powerful writer you can be when you’re writing your most ambitious project.


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