The other day someone told me they wish they had ideas. I responded by saying I wish I could stop. This wasn’t actually the truth: I love having ideas, because they mean I can keep doing what I love most of all. It was just upon looking at the collection of notes and half written stories I’ve collected that it started to feel more like a frenzy than an art form. Writing can feel a bit like an inescapable obsession. Before I know it I’ve got words scattered on pages that I forgot almost as soon as I had thought them. Something I realised about myself a while ago was that if I do not write down the ideas that come to me, I will forget them. Without fail. Sometimes only ten minutes later! And so it’s become a habit to write everything down that gives me even an inkling of being more than just an idea.
Where passion is driven from is one of life’s beautiful mysteries. How someone actually comes up with an idea, well, that I can’t even attempt to explain. But I imagine if you were pulled into this piece of writing from seeing the title, you’re already someone with some ideas.
The irony I find in the title I’ve chosen, is that most of the time when you start out writing, nobody really is reading. Either through your own hesitation or the lack of readers. Writing is something you do because inherently you enjoy it. With translating thoughts to language and feeling comfortable with what’s revealed to you. For a lot of people writing is very similar to holding up a mirror. You have to fall in love with the physical act itself, whether the intention is for the words to be read or kept private, and really I think this is imperative to all aspects of life. I’ve never liked doing anything I didn’t want to throw myself wholeheartedly at.
There is some aspect of love that is down to practice; too often we sit and wait for inspiration to be bestowed on us. We convince ourselves that just feeling like it was meant for us is enough. As though flowers will bloom when you forget to water them. Love is something that needs to be nurtured. In life you can fall in love with pretty much anything. It can be the act of quietly brewing your first coffee while everyone else is still asleep; it can be the phone calls with far off friends and the memories you made and plans for memories to come; it can be a moment in which nothing exists aside from the sound of rain. While I’m doing these things I like to express, even if that just means telling myself, how much I love it. Like I said, it takes practice. Everyone has days where they question what the point is or can’t feel joy for things they usually would. On some occasions you have to remind yourself to love with your head rather than your heart. Mindset plays a huge part.
Anyway – after you’ve decided you’re in love with the physical act of writing it becomes all about doing the thing. I say specifically the physical act because words don’t put themselves onto paper. There are many people who have ideas but not as many who actually react to them. When we see a finished product we just see it for what it is and not the work that went into it. To rephrase the image I started in the last paragraph, we often see the flowers and not the roots. The work is personal. Everyone has a different definition of what it means to be a writer and therefore a different end goal in mind. But the challenge for everyone ultimately is figuring out how you’re going to get from that initial idea to a finished piece. For me it’s how I can take all these frenzied notes and fix them into what I feel defines me as a writer – or a cohesive story. This is the stage I’m currently feeling overwhelmed with.
Writing for yourself is very freeing. The addition of letting readers dictate what you write can cause doubt to tie an anchor to your wrist. There are some people who would say ‘of course you should never write for anyone but yourself’, however this isn’t very practical for those writing with a purpose. (Purpose can include money if writing is your job, but it’s not an exclusive reason. Another purpose could be writing a letter to someone for example). Although the majority of the writing I do is for fun, because I have the intention of sharing most of it eventually I do often wonder whether people are going to enjoy what I create. One of the questions I get asked frequently is ‘how do you have the confidence to share your writing publicly?’. Actually the truth is, a lot of the time I’m terrified. Each time I publish a post that has required me to express an opinion I spend at least an hour trying to shake the nerves off afterwards. Waiting for someone to say they don’t like it.
I’ve heard from others that the fear comes from caring about your work and I agree. For this reason, a reader’s doubt is something I can overcome ~ albeit holding my breath while I press the publish button ~ as long as I trust that my writing has been created with my genuine feelings. This also means I’m prepared to stand by my choices of content. Constructive criticism is always welcome of course; I’m always interested to know if what the reader interprets from my work is what I intended. It takes a lot of practice to be able to distance yourself from your own writing and see what a reader would (because let’s be honest, if we are at the publishing stage we probably think our own writing is really great). That’s probably why one of the most popular pieces of advice regarding writing is to read. A lot. I’m happy to hold my hands up and say I’m not sure how effectively I can evaluate my own writing as a reader, though it’s always very complimentary to hear the picture you had in your head has been reproduced in someone else’s. Naturally with fiction writing, this is what my aim tends to become, after I ensure I am happy with what I write.
My own doubt is another obstacle entirely. When I write, there is sometimes this big black entity that looms in front of me, who I like to imagine to look like ‘no face’ from Spirited Away. As I go, he whispers things to me, such as this story is rubbish. Nobody is going to want to hear that. And even if it was a good idea, you really think you’re the one who can do justice in writing it? You’re going to fail. It’s going to be awful. Give up while you can. Etcetera. Some of you may know the drill. ‘No face’ here is not constructive whatsoever and is clearly a reflection of my own insecurities. If I stop writing to look up and listen to him, I make sure I’ve only stopped momentarily to ask him to kindly be quiet. Other than that I let him sit there and keep me company, because sometimes writing is a lonely business, and at least he’s someone to talk to.
If you were wanting a post that literally sets a step by step guide of how to write, then I’m very sorry, you’ve taken a wrong turn. In all my flouncy glory the point I’m trying to convey is that writing is just a thing I do. Because I’m terribly in love with it and there’s no secrets between us. Quite often my mind is dreaming up scenarios and I’m very well in the habit of making a note of such tangents to reality. For that reason this post has taken me days to write. Now I’m questioning whether it even makes sense? And when somebody snapped me out of it to tell me they wish they had ideas, I was a little lost for words.