Writing can be so lonely! We want to know if what we’re doing will get us where we want to be. We know enough to know how little we know, and that’s why we help each other.
I’ll add pages and blog posts periodically to support you. I’m also available for consultations and coaching. Just send me an email at email@example.com and we can talk about what you need.
My master’s project was on teaching writing. That was over 25 years ago. I’ve been teaching writing and supporting writers of all ages ever since. Classes, materials, conference and MFA presentations, workshops, private and group coaching… I’m a writer who teaches, and equally important, I’m a teacher who writes.
The following is a journal entry I wrote to participants in a writing class I taught years ago. Looking back on it now, I see traces of the teaching writers who influenced me. People like Christina Baldwin (especially Christina), Carol Bly, Patricia Kirkpatrick, Phoebe Hanson. I also see traces of the students who have taught me. Students like Joe, DaNette, Mindy, Lea, Brandon, Randall, and those whose names and faces are lost to me now…
You want to write. You’re here. That’s a good step.
To write, you must understand the power of Story. We’re the creatures who use Story to make sense of our lives. We check in with others. Is this how it was for you? We listen to know each other. To share our truths, and we tell to be heard. This is who I am.
Until I was forty, I said I didn’t have time to write. I said I wanted to write. That I wanted to be a writer. Now when people say that, I know they really mean they want to have written. I thought of sitting in cafes, sipping tea, looking out the window or at other people at their tables to find inspiration. I loved the idea of holding my book in my hand, feeling the smooth jacket, like my son’s smooth baby cheek.
But the son wasn’t there yet. It was about that time, in the midst of those mid-life dreams, that I discovered I was pregnant. I thought about the years ahead. I didn’t have time to write, and now this child would demand even more time. Was I going to wait until he graduated and moved out? No. It hit me. I would never have time to write.
That’s when I started writing. Between breast-feeding a child who never slept more than a couple hours until he was fifteen months old. That’s also when I read. My son was weaned on words.
We think we don’t have talent. That everyone else does. Guess what? Those things authors say, like Katherine Patterson’s comment about writing being 5% talent and 95% persistence—it’s true! As a child, I was told I was stubborn. When my son was in preschool, we worked on turning those descriptive words into positive ones. Persistent, not stubborn.
And that business about talent? What is talent? It’s a word. A word we use too often on others to avoid doing what we’re called to do. It’s a dismissal of the time and the hard work necessary to make our dreams come true. We say we don’t have talent because we’re scared. What is talent really?
Something that comes easy for someone.
How do we know talent comes easy for someone else? We judge others by the outside and ourselves by the inside. We compare our scratches on paper to that of published words. And so what if it really is easier for someone else? Who cares if we have to work harder to get there? Many of those “talented” people, when they come to the end of “easy,” hit the wall. Maybe persistence is the answer after all. Maybe the response to being called stubborn as a kid is to say Yes, I am! I want this. And I’m not quitting until I get it.
So, how do I write? In a variety of ways. Some ideas come to me so whole I just sit down and start typing. Sometimes I type because it’s faster than writing by hand. I spill words onto the page. Sometimes.
More and more I discover my true voice emerges when my thinking evaporates. There’s a rhythm and flow I can’t control or create by analyzing what I’m doing. There’s also a lot of garbage when I write this way. But digging in the dirt is where you find the gems. So I put on my hard hat and go into the dark. Into the hard core of who I am.
Sometimes that voice will come only come if I’m curled up with a notebook. Sometimes it needs to come slowly, like steeping and sipping that too-hot tea. This is my thoughtful voice. Not the one that wants to shout at and shake people. To stir them from the pain of not following the longing. Listen to me! You’ve got something to say. Get it down on the paper! You’ve got a story. In fact, you’ve got drawers full of them in your mind and heart.
Start with one. The one that whispers to you when you try to sleep. The one that won’t shut up even when you’re driving down the road with the radio blaring. The one that already has its voice.
Maybe there’s a piece in the way—one you need to remove. A sliver that’s festering. Something that happened. A belief that doesn’t serve you. A nagging critic who demands to be heard. Write that. Purge it if you must and move on. Get to the story that comes from who you are.
What is your story? What do you want? How do you know if the ideas you’re considering are worth your time? What if you don’t have any ideas? Write anyway. Use your gut. If you’re on fire about something, write about it. It you have to whine and glue yourself to the chair, do it. Begin.
I have to finish this first.
I can’t write.
I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t been said.
I don’t have a place to write.
First I have to get organized.
Write as if your house is on fire and your only hope is the water of your words. Write during the chaos, during the hard times, during those moments when you’re questioning everything. Your life may not be easy. Writing is rarely easy. Write anyway.
Writing does not thrive on Easy.
Easy has no edges. You must write the thing you cannot write. Open up. Let go. Sometimes we stuff our dreams into a bottle and throw them out to sea. We wait for someone to find it. To pull out the stopper.
Give up watching your bottle from the safety of shore. Jump in! Get wet! Claim your bottle and pull the stopper yourself.
Aren’t you curious about what’s inside?
You have what it takes. You’re worthy. You’re enough. You want to write? Then write.