Write! Seriously, that’s what it takes to write–just WRITE. (Please note that I did not say that “just writing = writing well.’ But you have to start somewhere.) As one of my professors once told me, you get started by ‘putting black on white.’ Black pen, white paper–you see how this works. What follows is the journey.
He also said that the hardest thing a writer ever does is to murder their own children. In this case, ‘children’ mean your own precious words. I wish I had a nickel for each time I’ve had to do just that. I will have written something that, in the moment, I believe is so pure, so eloquent, so descriptive, so elegant–in short, so perfect, that I can’t imagine how it could be any better.
Oh, but it can. I can’t read something I wrote even an hour ago without editing some word or phrase. It has to ring true for me, so that my inner critic-oven timer goes “DING! It’s done!” One writer I’m fond of wrote that he writes until he knows what will come next, and then stops for the day. This single phrase made all the difference for me.
Writing goes hand-in-hand with reading. If you love to read, you love words. And if you love words, you may also find yourself falling in love with putting words together. What you have in your head is a golden, glorious cloud of ephemera that you just know needs to be on paper. The trick is getting it out coherently, so that each time you read it, you can say to yourself, ‘oh, yes–I remember just how I felt writing this; it is so true.‘
I remember my excellent creative writing teacher in high school exhorting us all to “write what you know.” If you’re a Tae Kwon Do student, you have your subject matter right there in your head. If you drive a snowplow, you know all about the truck and the plowing equipment, how it works, what to do and not to do, weather conditions, road conditions, etc. The point is, no matter how humdrum a person’s life and/or career may seem, there are thousands of people who don’t know a thing about it and would like to know. So if, say, you run a country store where local produce and baked goods are featured, wouldn’t it be interesting to know more about the farmers and bakers who are responsible for bringing their wares into the store?
Please do not make the mistake of over-thinking what you want to write. Just the get ideas out of your head and on paper. You can always clean it up later. Just literally get black on white.
In both high school and college, we were encouraged to write in the style of our favorite poets and authors. This nearly always meant that many of us turned truly terrible papers that started off like Robert Frost and ended like Stephen King. But all this is part of the exercise that leads to finding your own personal voice. The main thing is to write, and write a LOT. Do not let this thought in your head, ‘oh, no one is interested in what I have to say.’ You don’t know that, and you can’t afford to let yourself think it.
Write–just write, and when you’re done, write some more.