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Thursday, November 15, 2012

10 Tips for Writing by Geoff Kirsch (part 1)


While we are on Hurricane Hiatus, Geoff Kirsch from Juneau Alaska, will be guest blogging. See last week's post for his bio. 

10 Tips for Writing

One of my favorite (and most hated) qualities of pre-school aged children is their penchant for bluntness.

Over the past year, my daughter and her little parliament of classmates have called me out on being bald, wearing the same clothes every day and “having claws” (read: grossly unclipped toenails). More than a few have asked me why my belly is bigger than their daddies’ bellies. I’m forced to admit the truth: while their daddies run incredibly long distances for fun—a pastime I will never understand—my hobbies include laying on the couch, laying on the reclining chair, laying in bed and working out schematics for the model log cabin I’m planning to build with all the leftover hotdogs from my son’s birthday party.          

Earlier this week, the apple of my eye point-blankedly told me I didn’t have a job. I said that wasn’t true, that I was a writer, to which she responded: “no, I mean a real job.” So I printed her a copy of my curriculum vitae, which, not to brag (well, okay, maybe a little) has names on it like “Comedy Central” and “Huffington Post,” as well as a “Published Books” section. I still don’t think she was impressed—even after she checked my references.

But it made me think. And I mean stop pondering the feasibility of frankfurter bun roofing panels for a second and really think. Was my little girl on to something? After all, she was right about the toenails.

Do I have a job? Can you call it a job if you do it in your pajamas (and, every once in a while, less than pajamas)? What if you get paid—as I once did (pretty decently, too, actually)—to write jokes for Michael Winslow, the noises guy from “Police Academy”? 

Here’s the answer I came up with: who cares? The IRS considers what I do a job, and that’s all that really matters. Plus, I’ve spent the last 15 years doing it, at the expense of almost every other career I’ve started and subsequently quit to get back to writing (or unemployment, as I said, depending on your point of view).

Like it or lump it, I don’t know how to do anything else. But I do know a thing or two about stringing together words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into pages that elicit a reader’s response and, most months, cover the two Montessori pre-school tuitions it takes to get at least a few wakeful, daylight hours in which to do all that stringing.

Anyway, I was recently asked to share some of this dubious expertise with students in a high school memoir writing class—an excellent experience, in all seriousness; those kids produced some surprisingly top-notch writing. 

Those ten tips for writing - both about yourself and in general - coming up next week.

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