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What the Marine Corps Taught Me About Writing

Categories: There Are No Rules Blog by the Editors of Writer's Digest.
Marines_do_pushups
BY WILLIAM BALLARD

I remember the day I stepped off the bus at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) in San Diego California and took those first frightful steps onto those yellow footprints as if it were yesterday. Completely disoriented, and in utter shock, I began my journey to becoming a United States Marine.

What does that have to do with writing?

From day one, a Marine recruit is being drilled with writing and author development training. The top four things that every Marine recruit learns, and what every writer should grasp and understand are:

1. Speed and Intensity
There must be a level of passion and enthusiasm coupled with speed in every aspect of your writing. I highly recommend understanding this concept in its fullness before paying any concentration to the next point.

One thing that I have noticed over the years is that some aspiring writers, have an inability to write quickly, and thus their passion begins to fade and then eventually they stop writing altogether. However, from my observations, I find that the main reason for this lack of speed is that new writers are trying to edit and be creative at the same time.

In order to write quickly, one must learn and develop the ability to shut off the “editor brain” while the “creative brain” is in productivity mode. This can be hard for the beginner, but with intentional practice can build a productive writing habit. In the Marine Corps, that is how concepts, systems and habits are developed—by being intentional and proactive—and the same is true for writers.

2. Attention to Detail
As a Marine, this concept is about uniformity and order. In your writing, it applies to the very same. It doesn’t matter what type of writing you do—you need to make sure you focus on every detail. This will oftentimes be the very thing that will make or break the success of your next writing project.

Simply put, I’m talking about grammar, sentence structure and editing. But this concept is second on the list because you don’t want it to get in the way of speed and intensity.

Once you have gotten your thoughts down on paper by shutting off your editing eye and focusing your attention and passion, then—and only then—do I recommend paying attention to detail. They say it’s the little things that make a big difference, and it’s true. You can imagine, then, the importance of attention to detail in your writing.

This is where you program yourself to shut down the creative side and activate the editor’s brain. You develop this skill with intentional practice.

3. Give 100 Percent of Yourself 100 Percent of the Time
In the Marine Corps, this concept is coupled with speed and intensity, but it specifically has to do with heart and courage. In your writing, it applies to the Law of Sowing and Reaping (or the Law of the Harvest)—meaning that you get out of your writing exactly what you put into your writing.

If you give little attention to detail (editing, grammar, sentence structure, etc.), you get little praise and support in return. If you give little to no speed and intensity (passion and enthusiasm) in your writing, you get little to no passion and enthusiasm back from your readers or blog followers—which will also mean little to no conversion or sales. But if you give a lot of yourself to your writing and to your readers, you will get the same in return.

4. Semper Fi – Always Faithful
This is the Marine Corps motto and it essentially encompasses everything that a Marine is and does. The core values of the Marine Corps are honor, courage, and commitment. A Marine is always faithful to whatever endeavor he has committed to fulfill.

Likewise, a writer should always be faithful to her reader and to her writing. The Law of Commitment is one of the major laws of success. Successful people will tell you that they never gave up and never quit. That is another point that was drilled into every recruit at MCRD San Diego. Always have heart and never quit. In fact, quitting or failure was and is never an option.

These four concepts keep the Marine Corps strong and successful. If these philosophies, concepts, and tips are put to practice in your writing, they will be big benefactors in the success and strength of your writing, as well.
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William_Wedding_Photo_4William Ballard, a freelance writerblogger, and author, is chief executive of Writer and Author William Ballard in Barrie Ontario Canada. He blogs about freelance writing and business at his Freelance Writing and Business BlogLike his Author and Writer fan page on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @ApostolicAuthor

Photo: By PFC Charlie Chavez for MCRD San Diego. Wikimedia Commons

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3 Responses to What the Marine Corps Taught Me About Writing

  1. Hi bconklin,

    Thank you for taking the time to read my article, and an extra thank for taking the time share your thoughts in the comments.

    I really like the quote that you shared by Longfellow, “The talent of success is nothing more than doing what you can do well, and doing well whatever you do, without a thought of fame.” I think that is a quote that we writers should all blow up and hang on our walls so that we can see it and read it as much as we can. It is fuel for motivation.

    Again, thank you bconklin for your comment.

  2. You are absolutely right bconklin!

    I appreciate you sharing your remarks, and I think every writer should adopt that quote that you have shared, blow it up, and hang it up some where they can see it everyday.

    There is some great wisdom in that couple lines of words.

    Thanks again for your comment!

    God bless and Happy Writing!

  3. bconklin says:

    Thanks, William. I was never a Marine, but I can see where these 4 principles can be useful. I totally agree with placing #1 ahead of #2. Writing and editing at the same time is bound to slow you down and dampen your creative spark. There’s a quote I keep posted by Longfellow: “The talent of success is nothing more than doing what you can do well, and doing well whatever you do, without a thought of fame.” Take away the fame, and every writer can achieve a personal degree of success.

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