Ian Mathie, my Scottish/African writing buddy, recently tagged me on Facebook to share seven secrets about writing. I accept this challenge as great sport, and following Janet Givens’ example in her response to Ian, I’m posting my reply here as the path to Facebook.
Secret #1: Writing is fun!
That is, it’s fun if you write about happy memories and ideas and send your inner critic to her room. Write with color. Write outside your usual boundaries. Write with attitude and guts. More guidelines here.
Secret #2: Writing can be painful.
Dark memories can be searing to write about when they cause you to relive past pain. You may wonder why anyone subjects themselves to this torture. They do it because …
Secret #3: Writing can be healing.
The simple process of dumping that cauldron of trauma onto the page lets you see things in new light and from new perspectives. Memory fragments coalesce into coherent story. Making sense of chaos settles your mind and paves the way for healing your heart. More about this here and here.
Secret #4: Writing builds bonds
in so many ways. Sharing stories around campfires built strong tribal bonds in ancient times. Today our campfire may be blogs and Facebook or email, but the well-written tale still builds bonds of friendship and support. Sharing your lifestory with friends and family builds bonds between generations. Participating in a writing group or class builds bonds of understanding and empathy among members. The more you share, the easier it gets and the more you want to continue.
Secret #5: Writing great imagery adds color and spice to your world.
"His voice is low and soft, a piece of silk you might keep in a drawer and pull out only on rare occasions, just to feel it between your fingers. She reaches into space, and a cool bird-boned hand takes hers."
When I read that rich imagery in Anthony Doerr’s novel All the Light We Cannot See, I quivered with delight. Doerr inspires me to stretch even further to find new ways to express what I experience and imagine. My experience of my world becomes a bit larger. My creativity is enhanced by his, and will hopefully inspire others in turn.
Secret #6: Writing is 90% editing.
It doesn’t have to be. Spontaneous outpourings serve a purpose, but even text messages might be more effective with another few seconds of thought. Witness the fun on DamnYouAutoCorrect.com. Writing like Anthony Doerr’s cited above takes years of practice and perceptual growth as well as hundreds of hours of editing. I find the time I spend editing and imagining new ways of expressing my thoughts a source of deep pleasure.
Secret #7: Writing doesn’t always involve moving your fingers.
I practice writing much of the time. I search for metaphors for sunset. I look for imagery to describe the dinner table daffodil. I consider what I really want to say in a blog post while I’m raking leaves. Some of my best writing comes to me while I’m in the shower or driving down the road.
Write now: Take up this challenge yourself and jot down seven of your own discoveries or secrets about writing. Post one or more in a comment.