Writing Tips from a Gary Younge Guardian Masterclass

I learned a few things at a recent Guardian Masterclass hosted by popular columnist Gary Younge.

I’m curious about writing and writers, their quirks and creativity – so this kind of offering was hard to resist.

The session was three insightful hours long, entitled ‘How to Find Your Voice as a Writer’, a topic that spans across all genres or writing.

I’m sharing just a handful of broad points that came up that evening – though for some of you, this might be case of preaching to the converted:

  1. Recognise your own voice and own it – be yourself.
  2. If you write to please other people you will never please yourself.
  3. Use ‘your world’ to colour your writing or topic – think about your values, experiences, biases, background, politics, world view etc..
  4. Writing is all the more difficult if you’re easily discouraged – the truth is, it’s hard.
  5. Develop a thicker skin – writers are not normally strangers to rejection.
  6. Keep writing.
  7. Read lots.

Gary confesses that his writing is noticeably better when he’s reading regularly, compared to periods where he’s had a lull. The more you read, the more easily you will catch onto styles you like.

8. You don’t have to start writing at the beginning of the story – start anywhere.

I reckon this is probably a common cause of writer’s block – self inflicted because we’re trying to have the structure and order perfectly in place when what we really ought to be doing is letting our ideas and thoughts flow onto the screen (or note book).

You can go back and play around with the order and edit later.

and the rest

Gary shared a lot of interesting information about himself, like the time when he hung out with Nelson Mandela’s bodyguard, his upbringing, education, his politics and career so far.

We also got some slightly more technical insights and tips into the wonderful world of journalism to help create a compelling piece.

Hearing about the writing approaches and habits of well known writers like Maya Angelou and Andrea Levy, was also very interesting indeed.

You can find Gary Younge on twitter here

Having attended a few writing/travel writing type sessions this year I’ve come to realise just how useful it is to hear from a range of different writers. They all have very different views on what makes a good piece – a subtle faux pas for one can be an absolute must for another.

Expressing your personality through your writing is a classic example of this – there may be times when you have to balance ‘your voice’ against an expected or desired style or tone – depending on who you’re writing for.

Found your voice yet?

Finding your voice as a writer is a very personal thing – there are no rules because it’s ‘you’, ‘your voice’ in writing.

In schools most of what young people write isn’t about them, it’s about the subject area.

Generally speaking, society teaches us to write more formally than we speak – though social media may well have helped to shift this way of thinking – somewhat!

Online opinion and self expression have become an accessible and fashionable norm.

In education, writing was all about regurgitating information, proving that you understood and remembered something, rather than a form of self expression – though I guess we did get the odd bit of creative writing here and there.

If you feel like you’ve found your voice as a writer – congratulations, it’s probably the reason why your content seems sincere, human, interesting to read and more effective in connecting with your audience.

Hopefully I’m getting a bit closer to finding mine ☺️

What happened to the room as soon as ‘wine time’ was announced, half way through the evening!
More wine available in the canteen folks!!
Note to self – that’s how you get roughly one hundred people to get out of a room sharpish – give ’em wine!

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