Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Writing tips

First get the leaves off your paper and
learn how to hold a pen. Start writing
at the UPPER LEFT. Come on. 
“You have to have a command over the English language or you're just nowhere.”
— Steve Martin

Writing is a basic thing all musicians should be able to do. If for no other reason than to come off well writing your own press materials and site content. We're small businessmen after all, and we are usually our own heads of communications and public relations. Maybe some people actually want to get into writing about drumming or music.

Here's what I try to do— actually, these are all negative suggestions, so here's what I try to not do:

Don't try to be an authority
Everyone seems to feel a need to project authority. Don't try to trick people into thinking you're a cat, and therefore have the right to speak. Just assume you can speak, and let other people judge whether you know what you're talking about. Do scale your pronouncements to your actual level of knowledge, experience, and achievement.

Don't be an opinion monkey
Part of being a cat is having your judgments sought out, and having them automatically taken seriously. It's the life's dream of a lot of musicians, and it's pure ego, and it's totally stupid and useless. It's such a part of the musician mentality, that it may take a lot of work for some people to figure out what to write that is not that.

Don't talk people to death
Do you know what seeing a big block of text makes me want to do? Not read something.

Use fewer words. They are your medium, but they are also a drag on actual communication.

Stop being so damn entertaining
A lot of drumming writers try to engage readers by prattling, like they do in lessons or clinics. I guess it works in person, sort of. In print it's a total drag on communication. Read a transcript of a Donald Trump speech some time, and you'll see the approximate effect you're creating.

Exhibit A of what not to do is the text of Tommy Igoe's Groove Essentials. The information is good, but it's laden with so much conversational bullshit, I promise you no one has read the whole thing. Mike Mangini's Rhythm Knowledge book is another egregious example of that.

Stop selling
A lot of musicians suffer from a crushing inferiority complex, an irrational feeling that society has no use for us whatsoever [HAHAHAHAHA -tb], and that we therefore need to constantly sell everyone on the value of what we do. Often this takes the form of trying to win people over with our enthusiasm.

Don't do that. People care even less that you're excited about something than they do the thing in the first place. It seems desperate.

Stay in your lane
Your job is to present your idea. Your job is not to teach the idea. You can't anticipate and preemptively explain every single thing readers may not get. That will make your article into an unreadable pile, and then no one will get it.

Everyone hates to write
A writer is a person desperate to avoid writing. You just have to start making that shitty first draft, and then continue with the long slogging process of fixing it up into something good.

Oh, don't write in the negative all the time. 
Form an idea of what something is, not just what it is not. What to do, not just what not to do. Maybe I'll get to that in another post, sometime.

No comments: