Monday, February 8, 2010

What the Peking Acrobats Taught Me about Writing

This weekend I had the oppotunity to see the Peking Acrobats perform live. Besides stunning all of my senses, defying gravity, and contorting themselves beyond human limits, there was one thing about the performance that really sunk in deeply.

The acrobats never rushed. This may in part be for a suspense factor, but they were always very careful in performing their stunts. At one point, a man stacked about 10 chairs on top of each other on top of four wine bottles and then balanced on the top of them on one hand. While he was stacking them, he took a lot of time to make sure each chair was perfectly balanced before he climbed on top of it and added another chair. Without taking that time, attention, and care, he may have died in the act of balancing on one hand atop that stack of chairs.

As a writer, I will admit that my biggest weakness is just hurrying to get things done. Applying the impressions the Peking Acrobats gave me led to the following observations:

  1. Always proofread anything you write. This is by far my greatest weakness. I emailed a prospective internship the other day, and after I sent it, I read over it and discovered I had left the last letter off one word. That doesn't look so good for an editing internship.
  2. Choose your words carefully. Often the first word that comes to your head isn't actually going to convey precisely what you want to say. truly is a writer's best friend.
  3. Pay attention to punctuation. I've noticed in a lot of my correspondence with people that they leave out commas, colons, semicolons, and especially quotation marks, simply because they don't know how to use them, but often it makes a sentence or story incomprehensible. The reader will lose both meaning and interest.
  4. Give yourself enough time. If you are not working with a deadline, why turn in work that still needs work? If you are working with a deadline, start far in advance to make sure you can not only write, but proofread, revise, edit, research, and anything else you may need to do to your work. I know that's ironic coming from a college student. But college is all about dreaming and pretending to be better than you are, right?
The acrobats weren't willing to risk their lives on rushing their performance. Don't risk your writing (and credibility) on rushing to get your work done. Death isn't worth it!

For another blog about changing your bad writing habits, visit: The Creative Writing Corner


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