Writers: Sing, Don’t Tap

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Do you ever sit at your desk at work and click your tongue to a song that’s stuck in your head? Or tap your pen or finger to a little ditty that won’t dance away?

Like this:

tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap-tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap. Tap tap-tap tap tap tap tap-tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap tap. TAP-TAP-TAP-TAP, TAP-TAP-TAP-TAP. Tap tap tap tap-tap-tap-tap tap-tap-tap. 

You know what that song is, right?

Just look at it. Follow the same notes I’m singing in my head.

Well, guess what. You can’t. Because there are no words. There are no notes. But just because I know the song doesn’t mean your stupid. It just means I’m stupid for not providing the words and the notes.

As writers, we are charged with the responsibility to paint a much broader picture for our readers than just dialogue or just narrative. In order for our readers to grasp our full meaning of what we’re trying to convey, we must present the time, the setting, the people, and the mood.

To leave one of these out is like expecting someone to guess what song your’re clicking your tongue to.

So think about that as you write. Is what you’ve written only discernible to you, or could an outsider  see and get exactly what your conveying?

In other words, sing, don’t tap.

(By the way, the song tapped out above is “500 Miles” by the Proclaimers. I blame How I Met Your Mother for getting it stuck in my head.)

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About Andrew Toy
I'm in the beginning stages of starting my own publishing company that's unlike anything you've ever heard of in the industry. The direction of AdoptingJames is taking a 90-degree turn and will be more writing/publishing-focused. Stay tuned for huge updates and exciting news!

7 Responses to Writers: Sing, Don’t Tap

  1. haha so true!

    Sing n don’t tap!

    many of us have this habit :p

  2. Reblogged this on Beauty in the Words and commented:
    A necessary reminder on what separates a good writer from an average one.

  3. Great writing advice! Thanks! Now I’m singing!

  4. Love this analogy, Andrew.

    I think one of the best ways to test ourselves on whether or not we’re getting through to our readers is to workshop our writing. Friends/fellow writers can help us determine whether we’re just “tapping” or actually conveying the song we want them to hear. It’s also very important to set aside one’s writing for a week or two, come back to it, and then see whether we ourselves can recognize the tune. 😉

    Thanks for the thoughtful posts, as always.

    Happy writing,

    Rebekah

  5. What a great metaphor for the purpose and function of a writer. We must sing our literary music instead of tapping it out in a monotonous, skeleton-like way. This reminds me of the good ol’ writers’ mantra: Show Don’t Tell. To tell is to tap, but to show is to sing. 🙂

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