There's two elements of writing. One is fun when it's going well, and miserable when it's not. The other is never fun.
(1) Thinking, planning, brainstorming, daydreaming, and otherwise figuring out ideas.
(2) Communicating those ideas using words, language, and structure.
The first part of writing is thinking - figuring out what you want to say.
This is incredibly enjoyable and fulfilling when you work out an interesting idea on the page. Sometimes you've almost got something, but not quite, and that can be frustrating.
The second part is the mechanics. Above, I said this is never fun, but that's probably not true. Occasionally it's fun in a craftsmanship sort of way. But usually it isn't. That's because the thinking, planning, daydreaming, and brainstorming you do is hard to capture just right on the page, and that's a yucky feeling.
"I've got this idea, I think it's a good idea... but the words I've written fail to communicate it."
The first part of writing is the most important part. Without it, the second part doesn't matter. This is an essay assigned in high school where there's only one or two correct topics that have already been well-worn. You don't get to actually think through interesting ideas - it's just an exercise in mechanics.
That's why high school essays feel like torture. I think this dissuades a lot of people who could be good writers. Anyone who can think clearly and then communicate those clear thoughts could do some good writing. But high school assignments tend to make people think that writing is about the mechanics, rather than the thinking and brainstorming and daydreaming and synergizing and synthesizing ideas.
Certainly, the mechanics of writing can really elevate a piece and make it shine. The final bit of polish and finish can make the difference between "good" and "masterpiece."
What's blogging? Blogging is just a publishing platform for writing and other forms of media. There happens to be almost no cost to doing it, so the stakes are low. Thus, you're allowed to do step 1 (the fun thinking part) without necessarily doing step 2 (the not-fun mechanics part).
That's why blogging tends to be a lot more fun than high school essay writing. On most blogs, it's practically the opposite - it tends towards rambling, unedited, and otherwise mechanically unsound form... but the blog author gets the enjoyment of thinking on page, and people who stick around get exposure to their thinking.
The not-fun mechanics part is what elevates a piece of writing from good to masterpiece. My strategy is roughly to do a lot of step 1, which I enjoy and which doesn't tire me out. On the rare occasion that I think a piece could really shine, I'll apply the polish and mechanics in detail (which I don't really enjoy and which does tire me out) for the chance that it becomes something lasting.
I'd recommend something similar if you're just starting. Enjoying the process is big. Certainly, study the mechanics and gradually improve yours. But don't obsess over them. Without interesting thinking at its base, mechanical communication means nothing.
Learn the mechanics! They're useful, yes. Necessary sometimes, too. But it's not the core of writing. Writing starts with thinking. The mechanics are there to serve you in communicating your thoughts.
This reminds me of a quotation attributed to Dorothy Parker. "I hate writing. I love having written." I hopped over from Irving's blog. I enjoyed your guest post there and I will certainly check out the link to the site you provided in your response to my comment. Thank you.
Your profile is very interesting. I lived in various countries and traveled a lot, too, although I have become a happy homebody in Oregon and rarely travel now.
I was especially interested in this post because I just posted something on my blog seeking advice about how to manage the time devoted to blog related activities, particularly reading other blogs and commenting! I look forward to reading more of your blog.
"Enjoying the process is big."
I actually lost the sight on this important point. When dealing with all the polish, craft, and technical details that's a real danger there. Perfectionism kills fun and motivation pretty effectively.
It reminds me of Paul Graham's essay on essays, which I'm sure you read already.
I really wish I understood this _before_ going to high school, and not 4 years after.
I've talked about time tracking a lot, most recently in "Daily Tracking Template v6."
One thing that's a mixed blessing is I do all my tracking by hand. I write it all down by hand, I add it up by hand, and I calculate out the results weekly by hand.
I do this for two reason - first, it makes my tracking very flexible about mixing notes in with times, changing/updating categories on the fly, and otherwise not locking me into a fixed format. Second, since I'm doing it the long way, it keeps it in the forefront of my mind. Almost always, automatically generated reports/numbers get less attention than going over them slowly by hand.
Additionally, trends about how the days ebb and flow start to emerge by going over them slowly. It only takes a few minutes a day, and I really think it's time well spent.
One downside, though, of doing it by hand - I don't have any nice way to find correlations. No fancy automatic output graphs or visualizations. If I want to see if there's some sort of correlation, I need to come up with a hypothesis on my own and then go dig through past records.
I have been brainstorming ways to get more participation in the "poem club" that I do on Wednesdays. It is nice to have an audience of sorts for my thoughts about some poems I love, but I wish I heard more about what others like, dislike, are indifferent to, think about, etc., when they read the posts. So I was googling, but I haven't found anything yet, so I am asking here: does anybody know of a sort of "poetry salon" online, where people have discussions about poetry that they like? I find lots of places for people to post their own poetry, and that's fun too. But I like thinking and talking about others' poetry and what about it makes it good. And I don't mean some graduate school class or some collective devoted to some particular ideology of poetry. I'm looking for casual, fun, non-academic, non-elitist, conversation about great poems. Like you are coming over to my living room, and we are just hanging out, feet up, reading favorite poems and talking about them:
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="487"] Credit to apartment therapy and the lovely home of Karen Racicot featured there.[/caption]
Okay, I only wish that was my living room, but you get the idea (I hope). Where can I find this place? If you have any ideas, please let me know, below, in the comments.