REMEMBER WHY YOU WRITE
Especially on dark and blocked days, I question why I write. Like other writers, I come up with a lot of reasons that seem extremely justified at depressive moments. Here are four gloomy statements I’ve enunciated and have also heard from other writers—and some equally reasonable remedies.
· “I have nothing to say.”
How many times have I heard or thought or felt this! But then, after thinking a little more rationally, I arrive at some answers that satisfy and disprove that statement.
An example from one of my entries:
Makes me so mad. Why can’t I write? Others do, badly, and get published and with less to say than I do. [Notice I’ve already contradicted my de-affirmation that you have nothing to say.] I think I have nothing to say.
Can hear my father’s voice when I announced, timidly, I wanted to be a writer. “Ha! How can you make a living? What do you have to say?”
The bastard. How did he know? He had nothing to say—always wanted to be an architect, like Frank Lloyd Wright. The living room coffee table was piled high with books with glossy glorious photos of Wright houses, Philip Johnson landmarks, and I. M. Pei structures soaring to the sky.
But my father married young, probably too young, and had a family too soon to support. So he settled. Became a crafter of prisons and prison-like schools, lockstep cement-block buildings with windows rationed like war-zone food.
Ah—the makings of a memoir.
As I replied to Grant, how do you know if you don’t go for it? If you feel like you’re worse than other writers, read a few blogs. Many are excellent—and some are, well, to be charitable, less so. Can you do as well, or surpass them? I bet your answer is affirmative.
Even better, don’t read anything else at all. When I’ve read excerpts from stellar essayists or novelists, I too plummet and succumb: “I’ll never make the grade.” Such exposure and comparisons can paralyze us further. So, contrary to much advice for writers, for a while turn away from all reading and concentrate on producing your own words.
After complimenting him on his evocative metaphor of “tiny pocket,” I told him, and say the same to you, “You don’t know at all that no one will read your work. Do you realize how many subjects the Internet carries, from common to unnervingly esoteric? As with partners, there’s a reading match for every topic and approach.”
Your first and only responsibility is to do what feels good—and right—to you. If you have the desire, itch, rash, to write, then you are meant to write.
Remember too a truth that contradicts that no-one-will-read-it assumption. Whatever your subject, the more you are true to yourself, the more you will connect with others. Even if you think no one’s interested in what you write about, do it anyway. The more you write, the better you’ll get. The deeper you go inside, the more honest you can be in your writing, and the more other people will read, and find personal meaning in, your words.
In some ways, your job is to write for them. Why are love songs so popular? Because they say what so many people feel and cannot express. Same with writing. How often have you read something and shouted inside, “Yes! That’s just how I feel!”?
Or, “I’m surprised someone else is writing about this. It’s just what I’ve been thinking!”
◦ Do you feel “unfinished” if you don’t?
◦ No matter how many orders you sold, bills you paid, accounts you updated, laundry loads you washed and folded, do you feel the day has been wasted?
◦ Do you feel you’re betraying yourself when you don’t write?
All the reasons we give ourselves for not writing, or for quitting, that seem so sound are really self-indulgent and self-pitying. Sure, feel one or two for a minute but realize, as spiritual teacher Louise Hay says, it’s “just a thought” (You Can Heal Your Life, p. 5). The thought can be changed any moment you choose—you can think the thought that you are meant to write.
Do you see now, if the desire to write burns in you, even on dismal days, that you must? To ignore or deny that desire only harms you, and that denial will eventually manifest as depression, illness, hopelessness, despair.
But fear of such reprisals is not the reason to write. Author and consultant Joan Frank published a wonderful book of essays on writing with a title that unmistakably answers our writing-doubt questions: Because You Have To. My colleague Grant began to see why he has to: “Now I see things with a small difference. Your words were a message, and through you life is telling me to write.”
Like Grant, past the struggles, self-doubts, and momentary dejections, you’ll know too that your life is telling you to write. You’ll find yourself sitting there, and eventually producing the pieces that knock inside for expression. And you’ll know how to handle those dispiriting statements, to yield to the joy of creating, and to bloom where you’re writing.
Author, editor, ghostwriter, writing coach, and spiritual counselor, Noelle keeps reminding herself why she writes and is glad her reminders have helped her publish over 300 fiction and nonfiction pieces in print and online venues. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, for over 28 years Noelle has guided doctoral candidates to completion of their dissertations. Based on this work, her current project is a practical-psychological-spiritual handbook, Grad U: Complete Your Dissertation—Finally—and Ease the Trip for Yourself and Everyone Who Has to Live With You. In her published book, Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books), Noelle draws examples from her practice and other aspects of life to help writers and others release regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. Visit Noelle at http://www.trustyourlifenow.com/
With Trust Your Life, Noelle is participating in the Unity Books “Summer of Self-Discovery,” a reading series on Goodreads with two other authors of positive messages with book discussions and free author webcasts. See unitybooks.org/summer and http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/100799-unity-books
You are invited to Noelle’s free author webcast: June 26, 2013, 7:00p-8:00p Eastern: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/6146242861519032832
See also Noelle’s recent posts on Writer’s Digest Online, “How to Prevent Predictable Plots,” http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-prevent-predictible-plots, and on ReadLearn Write, “Wishing Not to Write,” http://readlearnwrite.com/wishing-not-to-write/
Noelle is an invited regular guest blogger for Author Magazine’s “Authors’ Blog,” starting May 2013. In her blog she explores writing, creativity, and spirituality, http://authormagazineonline.wordpress.com/