How to Write, Part 2

Image courtesy of D. Sharon Pruitt via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of D. Sharon Pruitt via stock.xchng

Monday I started a little series about How to Write, and I began my answer in Part 1 by saying, Break it down into these four steps.

There’s a lot going on when you talk about Writing.

Some people get stuck at step-1, and that has almost the easiest solution. Even if you never know what to write about, you might be awesome once you get started.

If this is you, there are all sorts of books for sale and even free options on the internet to get you started: just Google writing prompts.

For step-2 (image into language), assume that time will be involved. Give yourself permission to make a few running jumps. Throw some words at the idea (like spaghetti at a wall) and see what sticks. If you’re a natural talker, use that facility with language that you already have. Talk to a friend, talk to yourself or your pet. Talk into a recorder of some kind, and see if you like what it sounds like later.

This is what you do in that early stage of storytelling. You say what you remember. Other people remember it differently, or your listener has a question. The next time you tell the story you shape the transmission differently, based on what you learned from your earlier audiences.

You’re half-way through the process, and it’s something you’ve done all your life!

What is good to get into your mind from the start is that this is all part of the grand process I call writing.

Writing is like Growing. There’s not a meaningful before-and-after separate from existence.

In step-2, and sliding into step-3, you take your impressions, thoughts, intuitions, hopes, fears, dreams and delights and try to put them all, like fireflies, into a jar of language that won’t suffocate them.

Image courtesy of Horton Group via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of Horton Group via stock.xchng

Some people can’t do that. It feels wrong. It makes them sick to their stomach.

The act of capturing is inherently cruel and deadly, and even hearing me urge it leaves you feeling threatened.

Something I’m learning: Not everyone needs to write.



Some famous so’n’so once said,

“If you can keep yourself from writing, Please do.”

The point being that everyone is already wading through more information than any of us can adequately process. He’s saying Please don’t add to the noise.

But if you have to keep writing, DO.

We’ll keep working on the getting-better part. (Humility can be a great asset in this process.)

Why write if there’s already a gobzillion people out there writing, and a lot of them doing it better than you can?

I wish I could tell you the first place I saw this, but I’ve latched onto it, and it continues to provide meaning for my work.

People are still hurting.

That’s a real and legitimate reason to write.

People still seek delight, and beauty and words to describe the world, whether they see a gracious, nurturing world, or a dangerous, cut-throat sorta place. There is a security we humans feel when we are reminded we’re not alone.

Image courtesy of PLRANG Images for design via stock.xchng

Image courtesy of PLRANG Images for design via stock.xchng

All art does this. Sometimes I think that is the core reason for art— to draw us out of our individual foci and our isolated experience of the world.

Writing is just one form of this shared experience.

No one expects everyone to become a painter in watercolors, or a sculptor, or a violinist, but the fact that we’re all exposed to writing at an early age makes us feel a sort of obligation.

I do think we all need a basic comfort-level with writing, because there is a sort of mass or momentum to it.

It is “the common tongue.”

Not everyone understands modern dance or acrylic abstracts. That’s not a reason to abandon those things any more than Swahili or Gaelic, but a lot of people study French or English primarily because of momentum: more people already understand those languages.

This is the way I see writing’s function in general-use.

Look for How to Write Part 3 on Friday, and please “follow” (box in lower right corner) to have regular updates delivered to your inbox.