The month of January has been awash in words with some of them thrown into the public arena, others, held close to my heart. It has made a difference this flood of words. Even on nights I did not think I had anything in me, I somehow managed to dredge 500 and then more up from the very depths of my grey matter.
I started this month a writing weakling. People threw hefty words at me as I walked by them in the snow, laughing at me because I was not writing. But now? Now I get to throw the words around as if they are weightless.
Lessons learned, teeth gnashed, eyes burned by glaring white screens, space deeply analyzed as I stared into it whilst brainstorming, and my Spotify account nearly imploded as it massaged my brain with inspiring beats.
Don’t ever stop writing. So many nights, I would write 100-200 words then get stuck. So I would delete my progress and start over with something else until I broke the 350 word mark. The issue here was that instead of just writing, I was paying attention to my word count. I don’t look at my word count as I write any more. I just write. I don’t stop. I keep writing until I run out of something to say then I conclude my piece. It’s just like when I go to the gym. If I go regularly, it gets easier because my muscles are getting the exercise they need. Same with writing. I feel my brain changing (as weird as that sounds) and my thought process is more fine-tuned than it was at the beginning of the year. I find myself looking at things and wondering how I can write it.
Every single thing in your life has a story. Yes, every single thing. Even the computer, tablet, or smartphone on which you write. Or the pen & paper. Whatever you use, there was a human effort which went into creating it and wherever there is humanity, there is a story. Even where there is not humanity, there is a story. Seek the story. Write the story. Be open to the story. If you are not open to the story, you might just let the story meant to be YOURS pass you by. Always, always be ready to write. In order to do this, you must always write. See the first lesson.
Define your boundaries. What, for you, is comfortable to include as potential topics for writing? How personal will you allow yourself to get? Writing is spilling your soul to the world, it is getting on a stage in a stadium filled with millions of people (even if that many people don’t read your writing, it sure feels that way, doesn’t it?) who are waiting for your words. Choose them wisely, be ready to handle criticism, opinions, and people who will hate you for what you say. If you are not ready to handle criticism or hatred for something you want to write? Write it to get it out but don’t put it on the stage for everyone to say. It’s okay to not put everything out there.
Write with confidence, conviction, and authenticity. It’s okay if you don’t know who you are right now. All that matters is where you have been, where you are, and where you are going. Life, as Tom Cochrane put it, Is A Highway. The people going your way will find you and relate to your story. If you write with confidence, conviction, and authenticity, your story will carry the weight of truth and have an impact. Yes, you can do this even if your journey is shaky and undefined. As long as you’re honest about where you’re at in your journey, you’ll have authenticity. Writing with anything less is bullshit.
Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes better. Perfection is bullshit. Perfection is something we all aim for but always, always miss. When we practice, we grow stronger, we get better, but none of us are perfect. We may execute with skill, we may narrow the margin of mistakes, but none of us strike perfection. But wait, aren’t there athletes who get perfect scores? People who get perfect scores on the SAT’s? 100’s on tests? Yes. But I guarantee you they are not “perfect” people. We are human and to be human is to err. Accept this, hold yourself to the standard of the best you have to offer instead of one of perfection, and constantly practice to maintain the standard of the best you have to offer and you will come out ahead with less stress, less guilt, and less disappointment than those who constantly aim for perfection.
Have fun and be able to laugh at yourself. Some of the best stories come from stupidity, don’t they? When we have let our guard down completely and let ourselves do something absolutely ridiculous. Instead of getting angry, laugh at it. Write it down and flip it into funny. If it weren’t for my mother instilling the skill of laughing at everything, even the horrible no good things, I think I would have broken into a zillion pieces like the Death Star a long, long time ago in a galaxy far away.
Write what you know but research what you don’t and write about that too. The best thing about writing is that we get the opportunity to continually educate ourselves about new subjects. We get to poke around in different aspects of life and morph into subject matter experts about everything, anything, and maybe like Seinfeld, nothing at all. We are fans of the known knowns, the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns. They are all fields of potential stories, pieces, and posts. Seek them out, write about them in your voice, and stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone.
Let the things which interest you seep into your writing. I am happiest when I relate something to another topic about which I am passionate. Like last night’s post when I related A Knight’s Tale to PPD or another post earlier this month when I took a Star Trek Episode and related it to PPD as well. Or this post where I have already mentioned Star Wars, Donald Rumsfeld (Known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns), Tom Cochrane, and Seinfeld. Letting your interests in shows the real you, directly relating back to the whole authenticity thing we have already discussed.
Write fiercely. Words are your friends, not your enemies. Repeat this to yourself a few times. It will matter at some point because sooner or later, they won’t want to cooperate and you’ll want to pull your hair out. Instead, close your eyes, put your hands on the keyboard, and type for a few minutes until it clears and you have tamed them. Find a topic which stirs your soul and dedicate your deepest pieces to it. Make a difference. Writing well is a gift, not one everyone has. Sure, anyone can write words, but only a few of us are blessed enough to be able to manipulate words in such a way which makes the reader feel as if they are sitting across from us at a cozy coffee shop. Don’t throw that gift away.
Learn how to accept compliments. As writers, we are our own worst critics, aren’t we? The grammar isn’t right here, I misspelled a word, oh crap there’s a comma out of place, I should have used this word instead of that one, etc. See Lesson #5 about practice making perfect. Practice makes perfect in this situation too. Say thank you and nothing more. Be humble. No one likes a smug snooty writer. If someone interprets something in a way you didn’t mean for it to be interpreted, remember that people bring their own language to your writing, seeing things within you may not. It’s okay – it’s what makes reading and writing such an intimate experience.
I thoroughly enjoyed these past 31 days and I hope you did too. I was going to go through my posts and see just how many words I wrote but I didn’t because it’s not about the word count. It’s about actually doing the work.
Thank you for sticking with me for 31 days.
Here’s to 28 more.
See you tomorrow!
PS. Wil Wheaton just put up this great short post about his process. I’m sharing the link because it shows that all of us are different in what we need to write and how we write. Maybe that’s lesson 11 – using your own method. Go read his post, it’s a short but good read.