“I’m a three-time (soon to be four-time) published author. When aspiring authors learn this, they invariably ask what word processor I use. It doesn’t fucking matter! I happen to write in Emacs. I also code in Emacs, which is a nice bonus. Other people write and code in vi. Other people write in Microsoft Word and code in TextMate+ or TextEdit or some fancy web-based collaborative editor like EtherPad or Google Wave. Whatever. Picking the right text editor will not make you a better writer. Writing will make you a better writer. Writing, and editing, and publishing, and listening — really listening — to what people say about your writing. This is the golden age for aspiring writers. We have a worldwide communications and distribution network where you can publish anything you want and — if you can manage to get anybody’s attention — get near-instant feedback. Writers just 20 years ago would have killed for that kind of feedback loop. Killed! And you’re asking me what word processor I use? Just fucking write, then publish, then write some more. One day your writing will get featured on a site like Reddit and you’ll go from 5 readers to 5000 in a matter of hours, and they’ll all tell you how much your writing sucks. And most of them will be right! Learn how to respond to constructive criticism and filter out the trolls, and you can write the next great American novel in edlin.” (emphasis added)
Reading this made me laugh out loud, mostly because I once was one of those guys – I scrambled madly from Office to LaTeX to Pages to whatever, thinking that once I found The One True Word Processor, out would come the writing.
Look, writing is like anything else, and it was my stubborn pride that got in the way. I should’ve known better, given that I’ve played the violin for nearly 30 years, among other things. The only thing that makes you better is practice – that is, doing the thing you want to be good at over and over. Not so much in the rote sense, but in the working out different muscles sense.
That’s why I write poetry, and plays, and don’t just stick to prose. Because it’s all writing, and it’s all in the service of becoming a better writer.