24 August 2010

how-to write courageously

by Marisa from All Things New

Writing is my favorite method of self-discovery.
Here are a few thoughts to help you find your way.

Write for yourself first.
Are you self-conscious? I am. About a lot of things (among them: my post-pregnancy body, my high-pitched voice, my penchant for really unnecessary hip-hop music). I used to think that a bit of self-consciousness was fairly harmless, but now I realize – it’s a dangerous, paralyzing form of narcissism. It causes us to look with disdain on our flawed humanity and chase after an idealized image of perfection.

Self-consciousness impedes our ability to write boldly. We fear that we’ll be judged, mocked, or questioned, that we won’t say the “right” thing or that no one will understand.

Spend some time writing in a journal, or anywhere where no one will read what you write. Practice finding what satisfies you as a writer so that when you do write for the world, their feedback will merely be a validation of what you already know.

You have to respect your own thoughts and expressions before anyone ever will.

Stop reading other people’s writing.
Take a break from blogs and books.

Most of the writers I know are also voracious readers. It’s so important to be inspired by those who have gone before. But there is a point where you need to stop consuming in order to begin creating. The infinite swirl of words around you will simply overwhelm, not motivate.
How can you write in your own unique voice if you have to strain to hear it?

Expect it to be hard.
You know the stereotypical image of the tormented novelist, bleary-eyed and disheveled, alone at his typewriter, with a mountain of crumpled pieces of paper at his feet?

Good news! It probably won’t be exactly like that… no one uses a typewriter anymore.

To write courageously, you need to be bold yet vulnerable, liberated but intensely aware. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that that kind of writing probably won’t happen during the commercials breaks of The Bachelorette (trust me, I’ve tried).

Resist the urge to skim the surface of your life. Search for substance, even if it only results in a paragraph or a few sentences.

Aim for the shape of things.
My dad is a gifted artist who can convey moods and feelings with simple brushstrokes. Here’s an important thing I learned from his art:

It doesn’t have to be literal in order to be true.

Sometimes we think that writing courageously means we have to let it all hang out, exposing every flaw and wrinkle in graphic detail. Not so. There are things that should be shrouded, and they are better that way.

When I began writing my son’s birth story, the first draft was four pages long and brimming with every detail I could muster. But it didn’t feel right, and when I stepped back from it, I realized that while I had literally told a story, I hadn’t actually said much at all.

Remember that your life is more than a series of actions and motions. Blur the edges. Sketch the mood. Use emotion instead of fact.

Aim for the shape of things, and you may end up with something more true than you originally imagined.

Remember: You are not unique.
I can share openly because I know you can relate. You’ve been there – the fights and disappointments, the proud moments and overwhelming joys.

The beauty of writing is that it makes it easier to find like-minded souls and kindred spirits. Have you ever had the experience of reading a line in a book and then smiling because the author articulated something that you’ve always felt but never knew how to say? It’s a comforting feeling to know that you are not alone.

Except, you really are.
If everyone’s souls were made of the exact same stuff, then humans would have run out of things to say ages ago.

Live authentically. Value sincerity. Believe that you have something wholly new to offer to the world.

These are small acts of great courage. Focus on these things first, and the courageous writing will take care of itself.

image via sadie harris.

the how-to series is here to encourage confidence in the creativity and skills you have to offer. i am excited to showcase your talents and unique ideas. if you have a specialty (and i know you do), please submit your how-to guest post by emailing me: marta at martawrites dot com. i will be delighted to feature your how-to in the future.

"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." - John Wooden


Anonymous said...

I loved this post. It will help me find my courageous bone when I write; it's been missing for quite a while. Thanks!

Tiffany said...

Fabulous advice! I'm going to re-read and re-read this one!

Mrs Abbott said...

Awesome! I have a goal to write 15 minutes a day, so I'll read your birth story and then write. Or maybe I should write than read. I want to hear what you have to tell, so I'll read some and go from there! Thanks!

Leslie @ every good and perfect said...

This was really wonderful, heart-felt advice. I love "aim for the shape of things." Saving this one for sure. Thanks, Marisa!

Margarita Tartakovsky said...

Marta, I just discovered your blog, and it's absolutely stunning, from the photos to your writing style to your designs.

I'm currently revising another blog of mine, and this post is tremendously helpful for thinking about how I write and create.

Seriously, your writing is just breathtaking. :) Some really fantastic advice here. Thanks!

Margarita Tartakovsky said...

Just realized that this was a guest post by Marisa. So sorry about that!! And, again, it's a really helpful and wonderful post. :)

Amy @ Increasingly Domestic said...

"Remember that your life is more than a series of actions and motions. Blur the edges. Sketch the mood. Use emotion instead of fact."
You have me in tears right now. Thank you for sharing this!

Erin from Dear Edna said...

A very helpful post and a gorgeous photo to illustrate it! I want a print of that beauty to hang by my desk! Thanks!

Eileen said...

I love this advice. Thanks Marisa for sharing your tips with us! This especially resonated with me: "Self-consciousness impedes our ability to write boldly."

I used to write with high frequency in private journals. Last fall I worked up the courage to start a blog to share my writing publicly ~ but then it seems like my words hid away. Writing became really hard because of that self-consciousness. One of my favorite past times became something that I started avoiding.

In an effort to remedy this, I recently gave myself a goal to write 500 words/day, just so that I keep writing. I might just write in my old private journal, but the point is, I need to keep writing. Doing this has lead me to realize that if I write just for myself, I end up with more to share, as well.

MadScientist said...

Love this.

jessi bridges said...

Wonderful recommendations! You've inspired me to start writing on my blog again. Thanks so much for this post :)

Ali said...

i love this. thank you... so much.

that is all.

etre-soi said...

I completely relate to this, there's no better way to know ourselves than by the power of writing.

Melissa | Madabella: made beautiful said...

i have said i am not a writer. but i think, after reading this, i may be just that. a writer.

thank you for the liberation found in being a learner...

holly said...

i thoroughly enjoyed this post. i have just printed it for future reference.
the part that struck a cord with me was "aim for the shape of things". i am a scrapbooker and though i write outside of that as well, i often find myself rushing to capture the "who, what, when, where" of my photos that i often miss the actual *STORY*.

becca said...

I love this post! Finally a "how to" article that isn't just fluff. It is really great advice and wisdom and I too will re read this again and again. Thanks for sharing!

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