(NOTE: I consider myself a good writer, but good only gets better by practice. So I’ve signed up for the WordPress Everyday Inspiration schedule to prompt me to write something different every day. This is the result of today’s nudge.)
I write because there are these voices in my head and writing is the best way to exorcise them. That’s not to say I actually hear voices, but it’s also not far from it. As I start to think about something it’s like a pressure is building in my head that has to be released. When I really feel strongly about something it can build and build and build until it feels like a steam valve that has to be opened or the pipes will burst. It all comes out in one frantic explosion.
I’ve had experiences with writing that run the gamut, from easily turning out 1,000 words in the course of 45 minutes to sitting in front of the keyboard staring at a blank page trying to figure out what I want to say and how I can start it off. I’ll turn different perspectives over in my mind and work myself into a state of epic frustration over just getting the ball rolling. Sometimes I do something to kickstart things. So I’ll take a walk around the block or I’ll go read a chapter in a book or work in the backyard, hoping that a change in location and activity will pry the thoughts loose. I actively work to *not* focus on what I’m struggling with at those moments but the project is still kicking around in the back of my mind.
What I’ve never been good at is writing about personal matters. Words begin to fail me as I try to describe the people, events and other details of what has happened to me or my family. I have been working to…maybe “correct” isn’t the right word, but certainly to open myself up to that as well. And that’s very much how I feel about it, “opening up.” It’s a task I’m not completely comfortable with because it feels very unsafe, as if I’m making myself too vulnerable by doing it. My soft underbelly is exposed and I’m not a fan, mostly because exposing and dealing with my emotions isn’t my strong suit. Forcing myself to write about this topic, then, is an exercise in becoming more in tune with how I feel about things.
It’s also good training for making observations. How did the grass feel, what was the emotion that was causing my stomach to knot up, how does the sunset look…that kind of thing. I’ve never been focused on those kind of descriptions in my writing, but it’s something I’m working on as a way to improve my overall skills.
Some will dismiss all this with some variation on the trope of “Writing is rewriting, otherwise it’s just typing” but I think that does a disservice to the person behind the keyboard. It devalues that material by saying it has to go through a process in order to be valid or taken seriously. Editing and revising is an important step, to be sure, particularly if it’s meant to be published somewhere with its own brand value. Just because it hasn’t gone through editorial review, though, shouldn’t lessen the impact of what someone has tried to express.
Part of that attitude comes from my experiences at Weblogs Inc, the old blog network that owned AdJab, TV Squad and other sites before it was sold to Aol. The motto there was to publish fast and revise later. So as a writer I would get things out quickly and as an editor I would make sure the post wasn’t libelous and was relatively accurate, publish, then take a closer look at the style and form. It’s an attitude I still take today since I believe a light editorial touch is best for keeping writers, who then can develop their own voice, happy and engaged.
Mostly I write because…I just don’t know what else to do. My speaking voice is not that great, I know that. And I become extraordinarily self-conscious when I’m on camera or in front of a microphone. Those are…if not “flaws” then certainly parts of my personality and way of thinking than I know I need to deal with, but not right now. So I write because I feel, regardless of the audience, that I have something to say. That I have released the pressure and gotten that out of my system and maybe the silence is improved for it being out there, at least for the people who might read it one way or another.
I write because there is value in words. They last. They mean something. This all may be ephemeral and fleeting, but for a short moment those words were there in front of someone. Yes, there are some that could have been chosen more carefully, but that’s for another time. This isn’t about editing, it’s about writing.