Blogging, Favorite Things, Life

Words Matter

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…

and

and

and

and.

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.

34 thoughts on “Words Matter”

  1. Yes, this is awesome advice! I wish more writing teachers taught like this instead of the write, edit, grammar, grammar way that turns so many away from this important creative outlet.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I do love to escape everything and write . . . how I wish I could just stay locked in writing mode. Ah, but that dang dinner and driving kids and laundry. Even when I am mad about something or someone, I feel so much better after venting on paper. I might never send what I write or share it, but it is healing.

    A few published authors that I met at an event a year and a half ago gave me advice. They told me to get up early and write. That doesn’t work best for me though. I like to start my day with a dripping sweat workout and later do my writing after the house is quiet when everyone goes to bed. I think you have to do what works for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some of my best writing will never be read by anyone but me. ❤️

      I think whatever works best for you is what works best. When the kids were small, I would get up early and write. Now, I’m able to squeeze it in more often. But my best writing comes late at night now, and I don’t know why that is. 🤫

      Like

  3. I have loved to write since I was a little girl. I started writing poetry and writing in a journal when I was 12. My favorite classes were always anything to do with writing and grammar. I even loved spelling tests. (Nerd!) I bet the teenagers loved your writing class. You have a lot of good advice, but made it fun.

    xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really hope they did. I never got to teach another one because of the pandemic.

      Another thing that I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older: reading makes you a better writer. I know you know this! I’ve learned so much even since beginning this soul homework last fall. I’ve never read more books than this past year and I swear that has helped me become a better writer.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, you know I love every word of this post. I became a secondary English teacher because I wanted to give the gift of writing to every teenager who came into my classroom. I wanted it (and reading) to be to them what it had been to me: a lifesaver. I was dismayed to see what had happened to so many of them by the time I met them. So many had been burned so bad that they didn’t believe me and wanted nothing to do with the Kool-Aid I was selling. Even though I had a lot of school success with writing, it wasn’t until college that I met the teachers who would help release me from all the shoulds I’d internalized. (“Stop shoulding on yourself” is one of the best pieces of advice ever.) I’m so glad you were able to find your way back to the writer you were born to be.

    I don’t know if you’re familiar with Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, but if not I think you’d really like it.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Ditto what Rita said about Goldberg’s book. It was one that got me going about writing when I wasn’t feeling confident. I’m glad you found your voice and have been able to put it to good use here on this blog.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I love Writing Down the Bones. One of my favorite writing books. The other two are Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I don’t even like SK books, but his writing book was one of the best I’ve ever read.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I second Melanie on the Stephen King book! A more traditional book (but one that I really found useful) is Zinsser’s On Writing Well. I haven’t looked at it in years, but Susan Wooldrige’s Poemcrazy is another one you might like. And finally, the one that might be best for you and your soul work: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I am in LOVE with all of these suggestions! I’ve added them all to my library list. The Artist’s Way was on a previous library list (I think my friend Deb mentioned it before?) but that list was accidentally deleted and now I will hold it at the library today so I won’t lose that one this time! Thank you so much for these suggestions, Rita! 🙂

        Like

  5. Kari you are magical. I love this whole post from beginning to end. Your wise advice for those kids. The quotes. Singing loudly in the car and happy crying to songs (*same*). Yes to writing flow warping time & space. Yes to your whole marvelous post!

    And I lost my cool when I read that you read other people’s blogs to get new perspectives and see lives different than your own. Yes!!! Me too! I didn’t know anyone else read for that (squeee!). I love that you do this too! ❤

    Also telling kids to not stress out about the “shoulds” and “don’ts” of writing. To not let rules limit you before you’ve even begun. Just try. Like with riding horses over jumps — throw your heart over the fence and the horse will follow. Just try.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. YES to the horse quote. Just. Try. For many years, my fear would tell me that I could never be a writer. There are days when I think of what my teenage self would think about this blog. What my 14-year-old self would think about this. She would never imagine this for herself.

      Like

      1. My other fav advice from my riding horse trainers (caps cause trainers always yell):
        “Don’t be a PASSENGER! You are the DRIVER here!”

        Also rather fond of:
        “THAT’S IT! GOOD!”

        Our internal voices should yell the advice of good riding instructors.
        Tell 14-year-old Kari that Adult Kari is “doing a GREAT JOB using the WHOLE arena” (of life). And that she has chosen to “pick a distant point on the horizon and AIM for THAT POINT”. Cause u r bad ass that way.

        Sheesh. I didn’t know I remembered so many of these. I should write them down for emergencies of confidence….

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this post so much. Words matter. All of our words matter, no matter how important or trivial; they are our thoughts.
    I agree, writing teachers should allow for more expression and less of the rules. I’m so glad you let those take a hike and you write how you feel/think now.
    How lucky are those girls who are learning from you? Very lucky!

    Parts of this reminded me of the Steve Hartman piece he used to do (I think on CBS?) The premise was WE all have a story to tell.
    Let me look…
    YES, here it is.
    http://eachstorytold.com/2018/03/03/everybody-has-a-story-cbs-news-correspondent-steve-hartman-hosted-from-1998-to-2004-random-name-picked-from-local-phone-book-dart-thrown-at-map/

    We all have a story to tell and I love sharing mine and reading yours.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. We used to watch the Sunday Morning News program as a family and we always loved THIS particular segment. Wait, you realize it wasn’t only the one story. He did this every week for many years and they shared his meetings with all the various people. I love human interest stories and I could watch/listen all day.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We LOVE this show. We now have the Paramount Channel and they have all sorts of seasons of this show. This is how we discovered Mo Rocca. Love him too.
        I also love human interest stories. It’s exactly why I love documentaries over feature films. ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes, yes and YES!!!!! I need to stop running (not literally, come on now) and stand still again to write again/more! Why don’t I listen to you more often Sherpa Kari! Maybe I need to spend the day with Flat Kari

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, yes, YES! I love your words so much. I miss them. Sherpa Kari has a nice ring to it. 😉
      I’d rather you spent the day with Real Kari. Speaking of, you should listen to the most recent episode of the podcast (#4).

      Like

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