Recently a blogger friend talked about how many drafts we have that we never publish, which made me think about mine.
I had thirteen.
I wrote this in December 2019, but it got lost in the pandemic flurry of events and I never got around to publishing it.
Last month I held a creative writing session for a group of homeschoolers. While preparing for the class, I became worried about my grammar and punctuation skills, despite the fact that this isn’t the only aspect of of creative writing. But because I was sharing my love for writing with intelligent teenagers, I grew nervous.
Because teenagers can be critical.
Also, this was the first time some of them had taken a creative writing class.
So, no pressure whatsoever.
“Your stories matter,” I told the class.
It makes no difference whether you record them in a Times New Roman font or a Comic Sans font.
Kidding, for the LOVE OF GOD, no Comic Sans font.
Don’t believe anyone who tells you that you need a degree to be a writer.
Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that your story isn’t interesting enough to be told.
A terrific way to get the creative writing juices flowing is by a technique I call “free-flow writing”.
Go to your phone’s notes, tap the microphone button on your keyboard, and say anything you are feeling in that moment to your phone. Later, read over your notes and organize them to make sense of it all.
This is how I start the majority of my blog posts.
In fact, this is how I “wrote” the first few pages of my screenplay. While waiting to pick up my oldest daughter from soccer practice in the carpool lane at her high school.
Perhaps this isn’t writing at all, but rather recitation.
But is typing the same as writing? Is Grammarly the same as editing? Is a blog the same as a website?
“Thinking outside the box will serve you well as a writer,” I told the students.
“Don’t write what you think someone wants to read, write what you feel. In fact, write what you are thinking in this moment. Don’t worry about grammar and punctuation; just get your thoughts out.”
I told them that if they can’t think of anything to write, they should remember this:
Write your pain. Write your joy. Write your sadness. Write your hatred. Write your kindness.
JUST WRITE ANYTHING.
So many excellent writers are lost because of the formality, the method, and the structure of it all.
I know this because I was one of those writers. When I was younger, I spent a lot of time writing. Lying on my canopy bed, dreaming up nonsensical stories, and fantasizing about becoming a famous writer one day.
Then public school informed me that I needed to diagram sentences, study learn predicates, and don’t forget adverbs…
My attention deficit brain grew disoriented in the mix and I was overwhelmed. Writing wasn’t fun anymore. So I stopped writing for many years.
Until 2010, when I discovered a Blogger account….
I was sitting at a coffee shop with a friend, sitting in a soft chair on a sunny February day.
I won first place in a John Hughes movie trivia night at a local bar with my husband, and it felt like I had won an Academy Award.
I was driving with my daughters, and we were singing along 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 sipping one of her yummy alcohol concoctions. I was happy and giggly.
Those are simply fragments, but if elaborated, any of them could make for fun blog posts.
The students liked this prompt because who doesn’t enjoy writing about topics that make you feel good?
Use this idea when you can’t think of what to write.
When I’m writing, it’s as though time stands still. Then three hours later, I feel as though I was sleeping and just awoke.
Where did the time go??
If you get lost in doing something like that? DO MORE OF IT. That’s 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 the time you missed.
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, and mouse.
Paper, old 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. (Google Docs is free)
You definitely don’t need to have a blog or a website or a literary agent.
Don’t let any of that deter you from writing. It’s a shame that it took me so long to understand this. Predicates and diagramming, be damned.
A writer is who you will be, if it is meant to be.
I am so grateful to have met so many wonderful people through blogging. I enjoy reading each of their blogs because of the unique viewpoints they provide. They’ve all made a difference in my life and in my writing.
I AM part of everything I’ve read.
And so are all of you.
One student approached me afterward and said, “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 suffering from a migraine and having my period (I didn’t tell them about the period, but this gives you all the context you need). But then this song from my adolescence comes on the radio, and I find myself overcome with emotions while sitting at the longest red light known to man. I burst into tears! To the opening sounds of a song. But not tears of sadness, rather tears of joy.
The song transported me back to the age of fourteen, when I was much more carefree than I was on that particular day. It transported me to a high school classroom, to innocence, and a place far from neurology co-pays, perimenopause and adulthood.
As the music played, I sang along loudly and boisterously. I almost didn’t see the other cars at the traffic light looking at me. Scream singing and crying in my car at a stoplight. Our eyes locked, and they were awkwardly smiling at me. I laughed, wiped my nose and eyes, and we exchanged a wave. Thankfully, the light turned green, and we parted ways.
I laughed so hard and thought this would make an excellent story, but I kept singing and happy crying until the song ended. I pulled my car into a parking lot to capture the experience down in the notes section of my phone. It was so captivating that I never wanted to forget it.
Then I realized that my bad day wasn’t so bad after all.
When the lesson was over, I wasn’t sure if I had done a good job of reaching out to the students. I’d be content if even one of the girls came away with a desire to write.
Then, one student approaches me and asks quietly, “What was the name of the song?”
She was interested in learning more.
Words have the power to do that, you know.