HOW-TO WRITE COURAGEOUSLY
by Marisa from All Things New
Writing is my favorite method of self-discovery.
Here are a few thoughts to help you find your way.
Write for yourself first.
Are you self-conscious? I am. About a lot of things (among them: my post-pregnancy body, my high-pitched voice, my penchant for really unnecessary hip-hop music). I used to think that a bit of self-consciousness was fairly harmless, but now I realize – it’s a dangerous, paralyzing form of narcissism. It causes us to look with disdain on our flawed humanity and chase after an idealized image of perfection.
Self-consciousness impedes our ability to write boldly. We fear that we’ll be judged, mocked, or questioned, that we won’t say the “right” thing or that no one will understand.
Spend some time writing in a journal, or anywhere where no one will read what you write. Practice finding what satisfies you as a writer so that when you do write for the world, their feedback will merely be a validation of what you already know.
You have to respect your own thoughts and expressions before anyone ever will.
Stop reading other people’s writing.
Take a break from blogs and books.
Most of the writers I know are also voracious readers. It’s so important to be inspired by those who have gone before. But there is a point where you need to stop consuming in order to begin creating. The infinite swirl of words around you will simply overwhelm, not motivate.
How can you write in your own unique voice if you have to strain to hear it?
Expect it to be hard.
You know the stereotypical image of the tormented novelist, bleary-eyed and disheveled, alone at his typewriter, with a mountain of crumpled pieces of paper at his feet?
Good news! It probably won’t be exactly like that… no one uses a typewriter anymore.
To write courageously, you need to be bold yet vulnerable, liberated but intensely aware. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that that kind of writing probably won’t happen during the commercials breaks of The Bachelorette (trust me, I’ve tried).
Resist the urge to skim the surface of your life. Search for substance, even if it only results in a paragraph or a few sentences.
Aim for the shape of things.
My dad is a gifted artist who can convey moods and feelings with simple brushstrokes. Here’s an important thing I learned from his art:
It doesn’t have to be literal in order to be true.
Sometimes we think that writing courageously means we have to let it all hang out, exposing every flaw and wrinkle in graphic detail. Not so. There are things that should be shrouded, and they are better that way.
When I began writing my son’s birth story, the first draft was four pages long and brimming with every detail I could muster. But it didn’t feel right, and when I stepped back from it, I realized that while I had literally told a story, I hadn’t actually said much at all.
Remember that your life is more than a series of actions and motions. Blur the edges. Sketch the mood. Use emotion instead of fact.
Aim for the shape of things, and you may end up with something more true than you originally imagined.
Remember: You are not unique.
I can share openly because I know you can relate. You’ve been there – the fights and disappointments, the proud moments and overwhelming joys.
The beauty of writing is that it makes it easier to find like-minded souls and kindred spirits. Have you ever had the experience of reading a line in a book and then smiling because the author articulated something that you’ve always felt but never knew how to say? It’s a comforting feeling to know that you are not alone.
Except, you really are.
If everyone’s souls were made of the exact same stuff, then humans would have run out of things to say ages ago.
Live authentically. Value sincerity. Believe that you have something wholly new to offer to the world.
These are small acts of great courage. Focus on these things first, and the courageous writing will take care of itself.
image via sadie harris.
the how-to series is here to encourage confidence in the creativity and skills you have to offer. i am excited to showcase your talents and unique ideas. if you have a specialty (and i know you do), please submit your how-to guest post by emailing me: marta at martawrites dot com. i will be delighted to feature your how-to in the future.
"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." - John Wooden