Friday, October 25, 2013

Guest post: Why didn't I think of that?

Following is a guest post by Nikolas Baron of Grammarly.

Have you ever picked up a book, flipped through it, and thought to yourself, “Darn! Why didn’t I think of that?” Amateur writers, from housewives to students and retirees equipped with a dinosaur of a computer, are entering the scene with one simple idea and their ideas are proving to be immensely popular. Think C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and even Malcolm Muggeridge. While the books that are flying off the shelf generally belong to writers who write fiction, and amateur writers really aren’t confined to this genre. The golden rule isn’t to find a missing niche in the market; as an amateur writer, it’s best to start with writing what you love. Let me assure you that unless you’ve been isolated on a desolated island for decades, your idea would appeal to a substantial amount of readers.

So now the question is, where and how do you start?

As part of my work at Grammarly, a proofreading website available worldwide, I’ve spent a good proportion of time evaluating what writers write, and various writing ‘pitfalls’ they make. Here are some of the best pointers I’ve gathered for you to get started on your winning idea.

The most important part is simply to take the leap and decide to start. Though seemingly simple, many writers hide in their closets hoping to somehow ‘find themselves’ as writers first; but the thing is, you don’t need to wait until you know who you are to get started. It is in the act of generating ideas, putting it down, scrapping it, re-editing, and refining your ideas that you figure out who you are. No, it doesn’t make you a phony or your writing pretentious. I’ll let you in on a secret – most of the time, none of us knows what we’re doing anyway. ‘Then how in the world did you think of that?’ You ask. Well, truly creative work can come out of nowhere; it is simply in the act of doing that it does come.

Go back to basics and don’t start at the computer. At the beginning, this seemingly-incredible technology is your number one enemy. Write out your ideas on paper, sticky notes, or anything that will otherwise make deleting your ideas difficult; try permanent markers and the wall, if you must. The thing about computers is that it is just too tempting and too easy to place that little pinky on the delete key and delete away what could have possibly been the next award-winning idea. Give your ideas a chance to develop and mingle with each other. It is in the mingling that awesome ideas puff out of nowhere.

In line with going back to basics, don’t be afraid of having too many ideas. At this stage, more words are good. Write everything you think of down onto paper, with no judging, no censoring, and no favouritism just yet. Look at your ideas separately, group them together, take them apart, and regroup them again. It doesn’t matter if the idea isn’t used eventually. What you also want to do is to train and hone your writing muscles for the final product. When you’ve generated enough ideas on paper to kill a small forest, start eliminating. In the words of Scott Adams, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

Finally, if you want to get published, there is nothing more important than impeccable proofreading. More often than not, word programs don’t have the ability to catch sentence structures or minute grammar mistakes. One way you could overcome this is to allow someone else to read your script. Another alternative many writers use are writing tools such as Grammarly, which has the capacity to pick up on the slightest punctuation, grammatical, and even sentence structure errors to ensure flawless writing.

The best time to start is right now. Take a shot at these simple tips to come up with the next big thing, and get others wondering, “Why didn’t I think of that?”


  1. Great post. Thank you.

    I wish i had a dollar for every time someone's said to me, "You ought to write a book!" when I recount one of my real-life animal encounters.

    So maybe I'll read through this piece from Mr. Baron again, and bear it in mind its advice. I'd planned to cash in some rewards coupons from recycled toner cartridges for a fresh package of legal pads and sticky pads this week, and after reading this post I think I'll just double that purchase. Short stories. I can do this.

    Besides, writing in cursive is therapeutic and enjoyable on several levels. Like dancing or playing music or creating with one's hands, it's good for the head, heart and body.

    Personally I think penmanship itself is a worthy and considerate pursuit. A personal note or letter is always a precious thing, and making certain our handwriting can always be easily read and understood is a beneficial courtesy to the reader and protects the writer from being misunderstood or misread. Our handwriting reflects much about our mood and character, for example, and it's as personal as a fingerprint. Like dancing or playing music, it can be relaxing and enjoyable.

    I think its replacement by electronic writing is only as good as the power supply. Absent the power company's ability to deliver or a good personal solar power system (that most folks don't have), folks who are unable to write well could find themselves at a real disadvantage.


  2. Very interesting. Patrice, do you use this website? Recommendation??

  3. Interesting. Patrice, do you use this website? Recommendation??

  4. Oh, my. I think you wrote that for me. <3