“I read the way a person might swim, to save his or her life. I wrote that way too.” – Mary Oliver
I have spent time with so many people who shyly express interest in writing. In these conversations I hear a lot of “… maybe… someday… when there is more time… when I Figure Out what to write about… when I’m sure my work is good enough…”
So in the spirit of hope and wild rousing creative support, I offer my encouragement to all who are called to write:
*Start. Begin. Launch.
When I was eighteen, an abrupt thought occurred to me that I should start a blog. I didn’t act on this divine whisper for three years.
I didn’t act because I didn’t know how to start a website, I didn’t know what I would say, and – the most vivid reason of all – I thought the guy I was seeing would think I was stupid. At the time, these seemed like valid reasons to keep my words cooped up in journals. Now I believe these were fears that my ego concocted to keep my voice small and hidden.
My life has been completely transformed by making the decision to start my own blog. I have been able to help others with my writing today instead of waiting for a publisher to declare that I am good enough to help others, and this has made all the difference.
We live in a magical time where anyone can have a voice, and because of the wonder of the internet, we no longer need permission to be seen and acknowledged. We can step into our own creative power and declare that we are writers by virtue that we are here, showing up, writing, listening to whatever mystical calling pulls us towards putting words on a page.
So play big. Your message is important, and if something is written on your heart so badly that you feel like you must share it – it’s there for a reason. Get it out. We desperately need to hear it, and we need to hear it in your words. Let us experience the luminosity of your raw writing talent.
*Let go of preconceived notions of what you should write about.
Our minds like to keep us stuck in the Hows, the Whys, the limiting What Ifs. Our minds would rather micromanage away our creative rushes and refuse to begin until we figure out what genre we should write in. These tendencies lose their power once we reveal them as the delay tactics that they are.
If we try to write from this cramped and frantic place, we will drive ourselves crazy. The only way we will ever find our voices is to slap words down, and the longer we delay this by trying to plan every detail in advance, the longer our creative liberation will take.
When you write from the heart, your voice can’t help but shine through. When you dare to write authentically about topics and characters that you desire to write about, your genre will sort itself out. Allow yourself to find your voice through writing, just like we find our voices in waking life by making mistakes and navigating situations in the best way we know at the time.
I have tons of self-critical scribbled notebook pages lamenting that I need to Figure Out what genre I am. Looking back at the time I spent writing those pages, I now wish I had spent that time writing new pieces that called to my heart rather than fussing over my genre.
Show up to the page. Send your words out into the world and learn as you go. I still don’t know how to answer the question “What kind of things do you write?” so for now I continue to show up, passionately string words together, and trust that one day the answer will shimmer to the surface.
Give yourself permission to discover what genre you are. And if you don’t fit into a genre, give yourself permission to invent your own.
Our lives are overflowing with divine content that we take for granted. If you don’t know what to write about, start by writing about the ideas that keep you up at night.
What calls to you? What three-hour conversations do you have with roommates? What books are on your bookshelf? What celebrities do you admire, and what qualities do they embody that you yearn for in your own life? Did you have a moment today that broke your heart?
Begin there. Once your pen is moving, you might twist towards new topics in unexpected ways. Get used to the idea of seeing your own handwriting, and trust that the ramblings will wind their way towards becoming finished products.
*Get out of the way.
Your words, stories, projects, and books already exist in the ether of possibility. Stop fussing with them and let them unfold out of your hands.
(For more writing inspiration, I deeply recommend Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. And be sure to look for my upcoming blog posts on the technical aspects of writing – including description, word choice, and writers block)
Love and Abundant Penstrokes and Creative Cheerleaders,
What is your creative manifesto? How do you vanquish the fear of beginning? Share your wisdom in the comments section!