The importance of doing

You can read, read, read books, magazines, articles and how-to’s on your subject of choice but when it comes to learning to do something, nothing takes the place of doing.

There is something that occurs for a person when they actually perform the little and then big actions of a desired skill that provides as much or more “know-how” than spending a lot of time reading about it. Surely, one needs to read and gain the history, theory and other aspects but the doing is what gets it under your skin.

That is how I began editing: One of my superiors threw some written material at me and asked me to check it over. I started editing by doing it.

This applies to writing as well. There may be no subject in the world that is written about as much as the subject of writing itself. However, the most one will ever learn about writing will be while engaged in the act of writing.

This is not my big original idea but one that I have proven to myself over time.

My writing began to spiral out of control.

My writing began to spiral out of control.

Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, I was a devoted follower of author Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones and its guidance and writing exercises. I carried a dogeared copy of the book, a spiral-bound notebook and several pens in my backpack no matter where I went and I did those exercises,to become a better writer, daily for four or five years, filling up notebook after spiral-bound notebook. In doing so, I “wrote out” a lot of the  clutter that can get in the way of clear communication. Writing is much easier now. I did it by doing.

This “doing” idea was summed up by the words on a t-shirt I saw while standing in line at a Starbucks in Venice, CA in 1993: “The key to writing is writing.” That seemed too simple but the big truths usually are. I didn’t get the full understanding of what it meant until I had been doing it for a while.

So it is with cooking, playing the piano, starting a business, editing a book, etc.

The key is to do a little bit and gradually do more and more. Don’t get upset if you don’t knock out a novel at your first sitting.  Do a little and then a little more. Pay attention to what you’re doing. Sooner or later you will find you have a “feel” for the activity that you didn’t have when you started. You will be able to do it.

Remember to do: It’s the secret of good writing.

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Steve Wagner is a Los Angeles-based freelance copywriter and editor whose clients include American Songwriter magazine, The Hard Truth magazine, the public relations firm MWPR, in Burbank, CA and the diversity consulting organization Global Collaborations, Inc., in Houston, TX. If you are seeking a professional editor, contact him at swagner (at) writer-editor-etc (dot) com and he will be happy to talk with you about your project.

 

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Life Won’t Wait

Life Won’t Wait is the title of the fourth album by Berkeley punk rock band Rancid; It’s also the title of the new book by Michael Essington.

Michael was a punk rocker in the early 80s, when punk was controversial. Polarizing. Going to see a punk show in Los Angeles back then meant the LAPD might also be in attendance. Life Won’t Wait isn’t particularly about punk rock but punk makes some guest appearances.
Last one to die
Michael and I had the same art class in ’81. I was a senior. He was a junior. For a punk, Mike was a respectful kid who didn’t have the “us or them” punk attitude. We talked music. I graduated in ’82 and afterward only ran into him once, around ’95.

I got in contact with him a few years ago via Facebook. He’d published Last One to Die, his first book, which is by turns a shocking, tragic and funny collection of stories.

One afternoon on Facebook, Mike posted that he’d lost his editor for Life Won’t Wait. I messaged him: “Send me the manuscript.” So, that’s how I ended up being the editing of the book. It’s a good read that brings to mind for me Charles Bukowski and Cameron Crowe.

Here’s a little taste:

As I was standing in line to pay I saw a guy walk into the market: tall, impeccably groomed and with movie star looks. I did a double-take when I realized it was Jeff Conaway.

So I did what most people do when they see a celebrity: Stare but try to hide it. Look, but don’t look. But in my head I was saying: “Fuckin’ A, it’s Kenickie!”

He walked into the middle of the store (between the cash registers and the food aisles), stopped, looked around in a circle and yelled “Where are the fucking corkscrews?”

The whole store went quiet and sort of looked at its collective feet.

He walked over to the wine department and looked around then strolled back to the center of the store and again yelled: “Where are the fucking corkscrews?”

When no one answered yet again, he yelled out: “Aww, fuck you guys!”

He walked back over to the wine department once more, looked around once more, found his corkscrew and then walked back to center of the store and got in line to pay. He put a couple of bottles of wine on the conveyor belt along with his beloved corkscrew, grabbed a bunch of “impulse” items (gum, M&M’s, etc.) and then paid.

As he was walking out the door, a homeless guy hit him up for some money. I paused for a second because Conaway was already agitated so I wasn’t sure what his reaction would be. To my surprise, he nodded to the guy, put his grocery bags down, fished through his pockets and pulled out a wad of cash. He peeled back a twenty, handed it to the guy, and said: “All right, have a good one.”

Then he got into his car and took off.

Life Won’t Wait is available on Amazon.com.

Thanks for reading,

Steve

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Steve Wagner is a Los Angeles-based freelance copywriter and editor whose clients include American Songwriter magazine, The Hard Truth magazine, the public relations firm MWPR, in Burbank, CA and the diversity consulting organization Global Collaborations, Inc., in Houston, TX. If you are seeking a professional editor, contact him at swagner (at) writer-editor-etc (dot) com and he will be happy to talk with you about your project.