Writing anything is a journey. When we start any journey we have a destination and a reason for going. Maybe we’re headed to the grocery store for a gallon of milk or traveling across country to attend our father’s funeral. Both are necessary and important journeys, but the reason and emotions behind each is very different. This is also true in writing. Where are you going with the piece you’re writing? Is it a committee report or a story about the betrayal of a friend?
Another factor is why are you doing this? Is it for a deadline? Is it for fun? Is it to educate about a topic that’s important to you? Or is it because the story, poem, essay, etc. is in you and won’t leave you alone until you write about it? Knowing why you’re writing a piece and where you hope to go with it are important first steps in any writing journey.
I have always felt, or at least hoped, my writing had meaning - a higher purpose to help others in some way. But one writing tip I learned recently gave me a different perspective. The advice was to write mainly for yourself. At first I disagreed, but later realized this made sense. If I don’t enjoy what I’m writing or if I’m not interested in the topic then I’ll be less likely to stick with it. Maybe the truth is we are our only audience. The founder of StoryTellers of the Great Plains, Laurie Oswald Robinson, says that we write what is personal, but what is personal is also universal. This means if I’m writing for myself it will probably be what others also need to hear.
Another writing idea I didn’t agree with at first was to write what frightens you. Being a naturally-born people please I’m usually afraid of offending someone with my writing. What I need to accept is that others will sometimes have a different view or option. If I’m writing honestly I will probably offend someone. But telling the truth about a situation is more authentic and carries a stronger message.
Being honest and writing the hard stuff will often stir up emotions in people. If I’m describing something difficult that the reader has experienced then stirring up the emotions can be therapeutic. Tears of sadness can be healing when we feel someone understands us and we know we are not alone. Writing about difficult situations helps the reader know they are not alone.
Whatever your reason for writing and wherever it will take you and the reader depends on a couple of other things. First the writer must get their butt in the chair and write. If you don’t sit down and write you won’t get anything written. There are many tips and ideas for how to do this, which may be covered in a later post. Mainly do what works for you. Don’t use a technique just because that’s how someone else says writing needs to be done. Trust yourself and the writing will come.
Lastly remember it’s okay to “write stupid”. The first draft is just getting the words on the page. If you’re too worried about writing well the first time around you may get frustrated and quit. And if you don’t get a first draft there’s nothing to edit for a second, third and final draft.
There are many components to the writing journey. Only a few are covered in this piece. Like any journey this one has a reason for stating and a place we wish to go. There will be fears to conquer and emotions to feel. Hopefully it will be worth the trouble and our lives will be better because of the journey. However, sitting and thinking about it is one thing, but you will never go on the journey until you get in the car and go, or sit in the chair and write!