I think you should know: I am a hypocrite and also I have had two glasses of wine. These two are not closely related, but they are both things that are happening right now, so I thought you should know. This is a piece that will explain how the most important thing to do is to just write. To really sit your butt down and just get it done. This writing piece was scheduled to be complete two weeks ago. I have not, until now sat my butt done and done it. So that explains the hypocrisy; the pinot grigio explains itself.
In this piece of writing, I am going to convince you to let go of all your inhibitions and just write. I will convince you to disband all the myths about how academic and challenging writing is. I will convince you that you already have all the skills you need to start. Prepare yourself. You are about to be convinced.
People come at me with a lot of nay-saying about the possibility of their own writing:
What would I write?
Why would I write?
I wouldn’t know what to say.
I am no good.
What if I write and it is really bad and I die and someone reads it and thinks less of me?
These are all futile concerns. They aren’t getting you anywhere. (And you are a person that is going places.) They are not thoughts that fuel and drive you; they are roadblocks and should be treated accordingly. You need to overcome them. Swerve right around all these doubts. Entertain only the thoughts that move you forward as a person.
The way I would encourage you to think about writing is as a next level kind of speaking. Do you talk to people? Do you tell stories to people? Do you explain things? Congratulations, you have all the stuff of a writer. Just put it down. Start there. Certain classes, teachers, or experiences may make you believe that there is something special, a formula, a set of requirements. This is not true. You as an intelligent person have already spent hours upon hours retelling, shaping, analyzing the true stories of your life. Don’t let the nay-sayers take that from you. Don’t let them take or diminish what you already own: your own stories and knowledge. You have the power to write and you should start now. After you finish reading this. You are not entirely convinced yet, and this will be a total in irrevocable convincing.
What you will notice is you need to make a set of decisions about the things you are saying. This will perhaps feel overwhelming and difficult. Good. Get over it. Writing things down will feel permanent, like you need to do it absolutely correct. That feeling is dumb. I would suggest not feeling it. This is like day one at the gym and it will burn, which is good because you are building muscle. Mind muscles. (I hate that phrase, I think it is stupid, but perhaps it will be helpful not only to you but also to the meatheads who are reading this.) What is most important is that you get in that gym and start. Day one hundred of this, where you start feeling strong, is what you are aiming for, but you can’t get to day one hundred without day one.
You probably learned about writing in school. This was a bad idea, but I am not going to hold you responsible for that. Nothing against English teachers, I am in fact one of them. These writing experiences often fog the actual beauty of writing. They prioritize correctness and knowing, when they should value discovery and thought, questioning and wondering. School assignments seldom inspire the thrill of creation: sometimes after writing a piece I feel like a god, muscles dripping sunlight, standing over my new weird little being. It is the same buzz I get from solving a math problem. This is what we hunt; this is why we write. Because whether we feel like it is ready for someone else to read or whether we feel like it finally is well written enough to get off our mind and throw away, there is a sense of completion. You’ve done something, more accurately you’ve made something. As I complete this piece, I am more likely to experience a slight headache than to experience euphoria. No matter. What matters is I spent my time thinking deeply, creating, problem-solving, having fun in a game that I’m inventing as I go. Writing isn’t work; it is play and those who convinced you otherwise were wrong. I know I’m a hypocrite, but they are idiots.
Nicholas Darlinton is an 8th grade reading and writing teacher. He also heads up the Scholastic Arts & Sciences writing contest in our area, making him the biggest Flying M-Inkling advocate for literacy.