Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Write Stuff

There’s this belief among writers that hidden inside us is all the stuff we need to write.

Maybe we're born with this stuff, or maybe we get it from our teachers or parents, or by reading the work of other writers, but we have it and only have to dig deep enough to find it.

Of course, we still need to learn how to write.

We still need to read lots of books and write lots of words. 

But doing these things--learning the craft of writing--isn't enough to help us find this stuff inside us.

What is this stuff, exactly?

It’s the stuff that you tend to hide away from others and from yourself.

Remember all the early hurts and disappointments in your life? 

Remember all the things that you were told not to say or that you didn't think you should say? 

Remember the feelings that you used to find embarrassing or which still embarrass you?

All this stuff--the stuff which you don’t think you should write about?--that’s the stuff.

It’s your fear of failure, as well as your hope that you have something to say (even though you don’t yet know what it is).

It’s the promise you made to yourself years ago to keep writing--no matter what.

It’s all the messy, unclear, illegible, foolish, silly, amazing, ridiculous, unpredictable stuff of your life.

It’s the stuff you write at 2 am in a dark bedroom, and it’s the stuff you can’t read the next morning.

It’s the stuff that makes you moody, shy, sensitive, anxious, fearful, aloof.

It's this stuff that you have to learn how to get close to. 

If you want to write, you have to learn how to uncover this stuff--or how to encourage it to reveal itself--without frightening this stuff so that it doesn't go deeper into hiding.

Learning how to uncover this stuff and bring it to the page is part of learning the craft of writing.

Remember: this stuff dreads the light of day.

It seeks darkness, anonymity, seclusion, silence.

It’s your stuff, the stuff from which your writing flows.

It’s hidden inside you.

You’re the only one who can figure out a way to bring it to the page.  

One word, one sentence, at a time.