Do you want to set the page on fire? Write as fast as you can and clean it up later. At least, that’s what author Steve O’Keefe says, and I tend to trust someone who has 25 years’ experience teaching writing and publishing and has written several textbooks.
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I love writing craft books. I also wanted to learn what Steve O’Keefe thought the secret to success is. Turns out it’s not so secret as I thought: writers write.
If you can put words on paper or screen and convey meaning with those words—and everyone who has language can do this—you’ve got talent. Are there some folks who are just better alphabet stringers and word slingers than others? Yes, but not because they are more talented. It’s because they’re more practiced, more authentic, more careful.Set the Page on Fire, 28
But maybe that is a secret. So many wannabe writers talk about writing, think about writing, read about writing, and study writing…but don’t write. Other writers manage to finish their tasks but spend a lot of time staring at the blank page. So how does one set the page on fire?
O’Keefe challenges writers to make time for writing and spend that time writing. No matter how terrible it is. Even if all you write is “I don’t know what to write,” over and over. Write and keep writing and you’ll see the page set fire.
There are some interesting creative exercises throughout Set the Page on Fire to help writers get into the fire-writing zone, which I’m excited to try out.
Here are a few examples
- Write a 50-word description on what your moon looks like
- Keep a fake book filled with phrases and quotes you come across and love. “Collecting a writer’s best lines … can impart an understanding of an author’s technique that will inform your own writing” (52)
- Learn to recognize “the writer’s warm-up”
- Making up words to get into the writing mind
Although I don’t do a lot of creative writing I think these exercises will be good for my writing.
One point O’Keefe makes throughout the book is everyone has something to say and everybody is valuable.
At a writing conference I was reminded of this idea as I spoke with a woman who wants to publish a book of poems she has written over the past 25 years. She wrote them as a way of working through past trauma and wants to help others walking through a similar situation by giving words to their pain.
I thought it was such an incredible reminder of the power of words. Sometimes your writing can give vocabulary to others who are feeling a thing but don’t have the words. You give them the words and help them identify their experience. You help them name it. Your writing means something and is important. So write.
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Discover the Tricks and Tools of the Pros
Successful writers write, rather than just think about writing, talk about writing, or plan what they’ll write when they get a cabin in the woods. Yet even accomplished writers sometimes get “blocked,” losing access to their in-the-zone writing mind. Steve O’Keefe offers proven techniques and practices for jump-starting stalled ideas, honed during his many years of working in virtually every aspect of publishing. His innovative, often unconventional exercises will get you writing and accessing your own unique voice — a voice the world wants to read! Containing a career’s worth of writing and publishing savvy, as well as the advice of expert authors gleaned from hundreds of interviews, Set the Page on Fire is the kind of nuts-and-bolts coaching and encouragement invaluable to novice and veteran writers alike.
Set the Page on Fire: Secrets of Successful Writers by Steve O’Keefe was published on June 11, 2019.
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