Writing advice from Barack Obama

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Barack Obama is no longer in charge, and whether you loved him or hated him, I think we can all agree that the world feels like a much darker place since he left. For many reasons. Reasons that I don’t really want to write about here. I’m trying to focus on the positive and support things I believe in, like journalism (I’ve recently subscribed to both the New York Times and the New Yorker). I’m also ignoring social media a little more so I can spend more time reading and writing.

Writing is such a therapeutic activity in times like these, when it seems like you have so much to say about what’s going on around you. About how things make you feel and how you want things to change. It doesn’t even matter if you’re a “writer” or not, I encourage you to write as much as possible. Don’t worry if it’s good, just get what you’re feeling on the page and you’ll feel better. If you want people to read it, you might need to edit and polish it a little before sending it out into the world. So here’s some writing advice from the man some/most/all of us are missing right now.

Read your work out loud.

“Some of the craft of writing a good speech is identical to any other good writing: Is that word necessary? Is it the right word? Is there a rhythm to it that feels good? How does it sound aloud? I actually think that one of the useful things about speechwriting is reminding yourself that the original words are spoken, and that there is a sound, a feel to words that, even if you’re reading silently, transmits itself.”

Source: New York Times

Value your alone time.

“His best writing time comes late at night when he’s all alone, scribbling on yellow legal pads. He then logs these thoughts into his laptop, editing as he goes along. This is how he wrote both of his two best selling books—Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope—staying up after Michelle and his two young daughters had long gone to bed, reveling in the late night quiet.”

Source: Time

Stay true to your story.

“‘What story are we trying to tell?’ Obama invariably asks this question when huddled with his adviser David Alrod and speechwriters Jon Favreau, Adam Frankel, Ben Rhodes, and Sarah Hurwitz. Speeches, he believes, too often become vehicles for slogans and applause lines. He sticks to his story, and that determination, rather than trying to shift with the news cycle, was a large part of what propelled him to victory last fall.”

Source: GQ

Spend time with other writers.

“He had lunch last week with five novelists he admires, Dave Eggers, Mr. Whitehead, Zadie Smith, Mr. Diaz and Barbara Kingslover. He not only talked with them about the political and media landscape, but also talked shop, asking how their book tours were going and remarking that he likes to write first drafts, long hand, on yellow legal pads.”

Source: New York Times 

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