My friend, Renaissance man Doug Cox, has penned books, essays, poems, even a hit song or two during his remarkable life. In this essay, taken from his latest book, Sunlight and Shadows, he delivers a lifetime’s worth of practical writing advice. I reprint it here with permission.
Through a beautiful wrought-ironwork window piece in his doorway, he sat typing away on his wonderful old Royal typewriter. Surrounded by his pride of polydactyl cats, comforted by his fine-china cup of English breakfast tea or an afternoon bracer of rum and tonic, I can only imagine what classics came to life in his unassuming den. The Sun Also Rises, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, A Farewell to Arms, The Old Man and the Sea, these revered pieces of literature all came forth from a desk like this, in Ernest Hemingway’s home in Key West.
All of us write. From a love note in elementary school to a novel that takes the literary world by storm, we are born authors. Do you have a desk, a place, an office, a secret spot where you go when you are touched by your muse and want to put words to paper? If not, why not? Hiding in that infinite mind and spirit of yours lurks a poem, a song, a love note or a grand novel. Find your spot, take a seat and get started. Don’t begin by worrying about the length or brevity. Don’t be thwarted by how good or bad you think it might be; just get at it!
When I crafted my book, Sh-Boom, one of the things that moved me to design it as I did was my desire to help people start writing and make it fun. I wanted them to play a part in setting forth their dreams. If you are going to write your life story, you sure ought to be holding the pen!
A simple but particularly important kick-off to writing can be the act and art of journaling. It is a pleasure because you do not need to create the material you are writing; you simply need to set down a simple record of what happened today.
Remember to hit “save” at the end so you can whittle away at it in the days ahead. You are crafting your own private masterpiece . . . I know because this is how this book came to life.