Recently a blogger friend talked about how many drafts we have that never published and it caused me to consider mine.
I had 13.
I composed this in December 2019, but it got lost in the pandemic flurry of events and I never ended up publishing it.
Last month I taught a creative writing class for a group of homeschoolers. In planning for the class, I grew anxious about my grammar and punctuation skills even though that isn’t all creative writing is about. But because I was sharing my love of writing with intelligent teenagers, I became nervous.
Because teenagers can be critical.
Also, this was the first time some of them had experienced a creative writing class.
So, no pressure.
“Your stories are important,” I told the class.
No matter if you record them in a Times New Roman font or a Comic Sans font.
Kidding, for the LOVE OF GOD, no Comic Sans font.
In order to tell your stories, you will need to document them somehow. Whether that is writing them down or recording them from voice to write them down at a later time.
Don’t take notice of individuals who tell you you need a degree to be a writer.
Don’t take notice of individuals who tell you that your story isn’t interesting enough to be told.
A great way to get the creative writing juices flowing is by a process I call “free-flow writing”.
Go to the notes section of your phone, press the microphone button on your keyboard and just speak everything you are feeling to your phone. Later, go through and organize your thoughts to make sense of it all.
This is how I begin most of my blog posts.
In fact, this is how I “wrote” the beginning of my screenplay.
While sitting in the carpool line at my oldest daughter’s high school as I was waiting to pick her up from a soccer game.
Perhaps this isn’t writing at all, but reciting.
But is typing writing? Is Grammarly editing? Is a blog a website?
“Thinking outside the box will serve you well as a writer,” I told the class.
“Don’t write what you think someone wishes to read, write what you feel. In fact, write what you are thinking right this minute. Don’t worry about grammar and punctuation. Just get out your thoughts. We will worry about editing later.”
I told them when they can’t think of what to write, remember this:
Write your pain. Write your happiness. Write your sadness. Write your hatred. Write your kindness.
JUST WRITE SOMETHING.
So many talented writers are lost because of the formality, the procedure, the structure of it all.
I know this because I was one of those writers. Writing all the time when I was little. Lying on my canopy bed, making up nonsensical stories, talking about being a famous writer when I grew up.
Then school told me I needed to diagram sentences and learn predicates and don’t forget adverbs…
My brain grew disoriented in the mix. I felt overwhelmed. The writing wasn’t fun anymore.
I stopped writing for many years.
Until I found a Blogger account in 2010…
I was at a coffee shop with a friend, sitting in a soft chair in the sunshine on a February day.
I won first place at a John Hughes movie trivia night at a local bar with my husband, and I felt like I won an Academy Award.
I was in the car with my daughters and we were singing loudly to the radio with the windows open. It smelled like summer outside and I felt like I was 18 again.
I was in the kitchen with my mom, helping her make guacamole and drinking one of her yummy alcohol concoctions. I felt happy and giggly.
Those are just fragments, but each one of those could create fun blog posts if I elaborated.
The students liked this prompt because who doesn’t love writing about when you feel good about yourself?
Use the prompt for yourself when you can’t think of what to write.
When I am writing, I always feel like time stands still. Then three hours later, I feel like I was napping and just woke up.
Where did the time go??
I love that feeling, don’t you? That sense of doing something you’re passionate about? If you get lost in doing something like that? DO MORE OF IT. That there is the good stuff and getting lost in it is a sign that you should do more of it.
And if you get lost in it, never apologize for that lost time.
The beauty of writing is that it’s one of the most affordable forms of self-care I can think of.
Pen, pencil, crayon, marker, keyboard, mouse.
Paper, used receipts, construction paper, coloring book, phone notes, computer, tablet.
You don’t need to subscribe to Microsoft Word or Scrivener or even have a laptop.
You definitely don’t need to have a blog or a website or a literary agent.
If you want to write, don’t let any of that stop you. Too bad it took me so many years to realize that. Predicates and diagramming be damned.
A writer is who you will be if it is meant to be.
I am so grateful to have befriended so many amazing friends through blogging. I love reading every one of their blogs because of the different perspectives they offer me, the lives that differ from my own. After reading week to week, I am changing. Growing. From their words. From your comments. You all have added to my life and to my writing.
I AM part of everything I have read.
And so are all of you.
One student came to me afterward and asked, “what was the name of the song?“.
During class, I told them about a bad day I’d once had. I was running late on my way to a neurologist’s appointment while having a migraine and I had my period (I didn’t tell them about the period, but this gives you all the background you need). But this song from my teenage years comes on the radio, and I just got so overwhelmed with emotions while sitting at the longest red light known to man. I began sobbing! To the opening sounds of a song.
But not tears of sadness, rather, tears of happiness.
The song transported me to the age of fourteen when I was much more carefree than I was on that day. It transported me to a high school classroom and to innocence and a place far from neurology co-pays and perimenopause and adulthood.
As the song played, I sang along at the top of my lungs so loudly and boisterously. I almost didn’t notice the surrounding cars at the traffic light noticing me.
Scream singing and crying in my car at a stoplight.
Our eyes met, and they were awkwardly smiling at me. I laughed, wiped my nose and eyes, and we kind of waved at each other. Thankfully, the light turned green, and we parted ways.
I laughed so hard and thought this would make a great story, but I kept singing and happy crying until the song was over. I pulled my car into a parking lot so that I could capture the experience down in the notes section of my phone. It was so captivating; I never wanted to forget that memory.
Then I realized that my bad day wasn’t so bad after all. In fact, it was so much better.
As I related this story to the girls in the room, they were smiling at me, and even though none of them knew of what I was relating; they couldn’t possibly relate to co-pays and adulthood and neurology visits, they all nodded. Something familiar rang true to them.
The student who came up to me afterward was captivated enough to ask what song played on the radio because of how I shared my story. And she wanted to know more.
Words can do that, you know.