ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners)

Posted by on Sep 15, 2014 in Uncategorized | 2 comments

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 8.14.41 PMDear Readers,

When I first started writing, I thought I knew what I was doing. I’d jot down a story or poem (I hadn’t yet realized how much I loved creative nonfiction) sometimes finishing it quickly, other times agonizing over what was important to share, but almost always believing my writing was complete after the first draft.

After realizing that I was in fact a beginning writer and not a professional, which is another story for another day, I wasn’t sure how to proceed. I knew there was so much to learn, but how? It wasn’t as if I could Google how to be a better writer. Well, that isn’t true. You can Google how to be a better writer, but you’ll end up with 52 million results, and I simply wouldn’t know where to start. Sometimes having too many choices paralyzes me.

In fact, starting was (and still is) one of my biggest problems as a writer. I stare at blank screens longer than most people. Why? Well, fortunately I grew up as the daughter of a psychologist, so self-reflection is a quality I excel in. The answer is fear. I stare at the screen not knowing how to start. I stare at the screen not believing in myself, not believing what I have to share is important or astute enough. I stare at the screen with a million thoughts running through my head, but no clue how to pin one down on that awful, white, blank page.

One of the best things to do as a beginning writer is to get to know other writers. Lean on them. Ask them questions. Read each other’s writing. Critique each other’s writing. Share each other’s writing. Support each other. Develop your own writing community.

But how do you find your tribe?

Look online. Find Facebook groups. Search hashtags on Twitter. Email friends. If you’re lucky enough to have studied writing or literature in college, contact your old classmates.

And if that doesn’t work, know that your friends at Spry will always be here for you.

Earlier in 2014, Linsey and I were talking about creating something new for the journal. We weren’t sure we could publish more than two issues of Spry per year, but we were sure that there was more we – and our writing community – had to offer to our readers. We decided to create the ABC’s of Writing – a mini-series that we would publish between issues. Tomorrow we will begin our first installment of the series: The ABC’s of Writing (for Beginners). We’ve called on 26 writers from our personal writing community and asked them to share with you a lesson they’ve learned based on a letter of the alphabet. We’ll start with A and make our way to Z over the next few weeks.

We put a lot of love in this project, and we hope you find it valuable.

With love, understanding, and admiration,

Erin Ollila


Erin Ollila is an emotional archeologist who graduated from Fairfield University’s MFA program with a concentration in creative nonfiction. Her writing has been published in (em): A Review of Text and Image, Ilanot Review, Revolution House, Lunch Ticket, Paper Tape, Belle Journal, Shoreline Literary Arts Magazine, The Fall River Spirit, and RedFez. She is the co-founder and editor of Spry Literary Journal. Her blog, Reinventing Erin, is her outlet for ruminating on the minutiae of everyday life.


  1. Hi, I like the idea of this series and am happy to be part of it. If ‘E’ is already spoken for I’ll take ‘P’.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Joanna, but the series is already written and published. You can read all the letters under the Archives tab.

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