You Have to Have Something to Say

The writing advice you’ll find on the web consistently misses ones point. What’s most important is not mechanics or style. It is substance—having something to say.

I like what Thaddeus Golas said about this in a preface to his book, The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment:

I never varied from my determination to evolve hard information, a way of being that could be relied on even in chaos. It was chaos that taught me. I was so ruthless in testing, suspecting every sentiment, that I came to feel I was a destroyer of ideas, and indeed my books are based on what I could not demolish. Anyone who wants to tear those books down will have to work harder and longer than I did.

This is why writing is such hard work. You literally need two minds.

One is for writing your first draft. It is marked by unconditional acceptance.

The other is for revising your first draft. It is marked by rigorous crap detecting.

The bottom line is that writing begins with discovering whether you have something to say. Style emerges from stating it in a direct, concrete, and specific way.

Everything else is a footnote.

Related posts:

Honey, We Forgot the Content—Writing as Crap Detecting

The Art of Crap Detection

Discovering That You Have Nothing to Say