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Writing is hard. Sometimes you can’t write. I know what I want to convey to my readers, but I never can seem to get it out in the way I want to. Writing requires you to put yourself on paper. While the stories may not be about you, they do come from you. Everyone seems to think if it comes from you it IS about you. While there may be a deeper side to that whole discussion, I won’t go into it here. That doesn’t fit in with what I’m talking about today.
When I sit down to write something I’m eager. I know what I want to say and as I start writing something changes. I hit a wall. I liken it to stage fright. I think about my readers and wonder what they will think. Will they get what I’m trying to say? Am I even cut out to do this? It only snowballs from there. By the time I put my computer down I’ve convinced myself I should delete everything I’ve ever written.
Even as I write that I can hear people trying to convince me I’m a good writer and that I shouldn’t give up. But to understand the life of a writer, you need to understand the struggle. Forgive me if I’m assuming that it’s this way for most writers. I don’t want to imply that at all, but I know I’m not the only one.
As you craft a story, you are bleeding your essence into it. As a matter of fact, Ernest Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” I beg to differ with Mr. Hemingway though. There’s a lot to it. Maybe he had a secret I don’t know about. It’s hard to bleed onto the paper when you’re afraid no one will see what you’ve done. When you’re afraid they won’t like it. Then you’ve bled for nothing.
Author Natalie Goldberg says, “You must be willing to be split open.” I don’t think people who aren’t writers understand that. Unless you are a creator of some sort, you won’t get it. Being split open means that all you are is on display for people to see. So if they don’t like it, they must not like you. Or at least that’s the lie we tell ourselves. While our writing may not be about us, it is a part of us and when people don’t like it, or they criticize it, then we feel they don’t like us or that the criticism is directed at us personally. As a writer it’s hard to separate yourself from your work so that those things don’t get to you.
These are all the thoughts and things I think about as I sit down to write. It never fails, each and every time I will battle this. At times I can overcome it and at times it cripples me. It keeps me from writing anything at all. I’ve put aside the book I was working on, I know what I want to say, but I don’t feel like I’m equipped to say it. Not in the way it needs to be said. I have other ideas for other books, but there is part of me that is afraid to start. I don’t want to get ten chapters in, like I did on this book and realize I can’t do this story either.
One thing that helps me though is finding a person I can write about. Someone who needs their story told. I find these people in songs. Right now I’m writing a thing about a man who is in his late 30s to early 40s. He’s living alone and in poverty. It’s night time, and a storm is coming. I got the idea for this story from the song, Night Moves by Bob Seger. You know the part in the song where it says, I woke last night to the sound of thunder. How far off I sat and wondered. I felt like I had to tell that guy’s story. I could picture him so vividly.
I have 491 words in that story. I’ve been writing it since February. I have no clue where it’s going, and that’s what I love about writing. That’s what keeps me coming back to it time after time. You can start telling a story and it grows before you eyes. Things change. You find out things about the characters that you didn’t know. They develop before your eyes. These people become very real to you. For me to write about what this guy is doing and feeling I have to be in his world. I’ve spent many nights in his bedroom and kitchen. That doesn’t sound creepy at all, but I hope you know what I’m getting at. I have to put myself there so I can see how he is living. What does he have in his bedroom and kitchen? What is he like?
So, if you’re just starting to write. Understand that there are going to be times when you can’t write. You’re going to be seized with fear and doubt. You’re going to want to quit. If that happens, remember why you love it. Find a character that you can picture vividly and that speaks to you and write his/her story. Don’t allow yourself to be stopped. God has placed a desire in you to write for a reason. Write anyway.