Get Started Writing - Your Voice and Storytelling
For many people, writing is a near impossibility. What they like to say is: I don't have anything to say; I have no idea how to get words to flow; and what I do write, it seems, is trite and not worth the effort. Think again: If you can talk, you can write. The processes are almost identical but somehow the act of putting words down on a page has taken on the onus and intimidation of a great master painter's brush.
Are you a writer – somebody who can pick up a pen or type at a keyboard and produce content easily? Then you probably don't think you need to read about "getting started writing." You're already there. However, what happens that one day or one morning or one pressing deadline when writing becomes a chore, an uphill battle or an argument with your inner voice, scoffing: "You can't write."
The best rebound is to remember the relationship between talking and writing:
"If you can talk, you can write."
Writing is like mountain climbing. Reaching the top (finishing) is exhilarating but the higher we climb, the rarer the air. If we look down, fear may take over – the fear that I really can't write. Be careful! At the bottom of the mountain are wetlands of worry, criticism and second-guessing yourself. Damned if you do; damned if you don't. Better to stick to the journey ahead, knowing the top of the mountain is closer than you think. Upwards and onwards.
Thank yourself for a brain that's never quiet. Write down your every thought – a story, an issue, a complaint, a petition ... Something will come pouring forth to surprise you. Go with it. Once the writing juices are flowing, begin to channel your thoughts in the direction you "need" to write. Ideas will begin to form.
Write them down as fast as you think of them. Don't be too concerned about sequencing, logical flow, paragraphs, punctuation, vocabulary or style. Empty your thoughts onto paper or into the computer, then take a break long enough to forget what you wrote. When you get back, what you read will be as if it were brand-new.
Anything worth pursuing? No? Click delete.
Anything worth pursuing? Yes?
- What words and phrases are particularly interesting?
- Draw lines connecting the ideas - chronologically or logically or as contrasting ideas.
- What you're reading – is it generating any images in your mind?
- Tell your story. "Once upon a time…"
- Ask a question and answer it: "What would happen if…? Let me tell you ..."
- Describe an event you attended." What a great time I had…"
Inspiration and confidence – Who am I?
Beginning writers are fond of justifying why they should not be writing:
- I'm not an expert.
- I'm not that important.
- Professionals are writing about this. Who cares what I have to say?
- I only know how I feel. I can't begin to speak for anyone else.
That last statement is the key to developing your own voice. Write as if you were talking with your best friend – yourself. Write with such caring that your readers will want to know you as a friend. They will see you as someone who:
- Reports about events they didn't get to attend
- Talks about their passions
- Asks others to care as much as they do
- Inspires others to "go for it"
- Raises awareness about community issues
There is value in YOU just being yourself. Like the transparent teaching dummy that lets students look inside its body, be open to sharing your ideas, letting others know a little about who you are. Show your readers why you care.
Oscar Wilde has a wonderful expression that puts you in perspective, puts you in the spotlight at center stage.
"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."
"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."
For many of us, being ourselves is embarrassing, painful, wistful, drab and not up to par. At least that is how we see ourselves as we miss the presence of the beauty and strength in our lives. So "trying" to be somebody else is unfortunately the norm.
- Are you in a jealous contest with your sibling or friend?
- Are you attempting to please someone other than yourself?
- Are you chasing a paper tiger believing it is real?
Feeling sorry for yourself? "No one is interested in knowing my story anyway." That's not the point. Who you are wakes up to life every day with a brain that sees and filters life so uniquely. You are an astounding human being. Be proud of who you are. Sense the blessings coming your way and begin telling others about LIFE – as you see it.
Why am I writing - to What Purpose?
Contrast the question: "Why am I writing?" with this one: "Why am I talking?" An old man in his final years sat with pen and paper and wrote poetry every day. Almost no one read his poetry while he was alive nor after he left this earth. Why was he writing? The answer is that he was talking to himself. He was fulfilling a need to express his thoughts in poetic form. He was compelled to write what spoke from his heart.
Anyone who writes a diary rarely wants their writings on display, yet what they write is an integral part of who they are.
"If you are compelled to write, there a reason."
On the other hand, profit oriented publishers are a different breed. They need readers to buy books so you, the author, and they can make a profit. What you write must be market oriented.
If your longterm goals include writing for an audience, consider sharing some of your ideas with others early on. Instead of opening with "what I'm writing," challenge your friends with interest and curiosity. "Hey, did you ever think…?" One day you may discover a viable thread beginning to develop between you and a potential reader. Don't look too hard for this connection. Just let it happen.
Writing - a Challenge and an Adventure
Our brains are programmed for survival. What we sense (see, hear, taste, smell and feel) generates a brain response based on the sensual cues, not words. We don't wake up in the morning, open our eyes and see words like sun, rain, radio and work. Yes, we wake up with thoughts but what tends to come first is the image with words following quickly after.
So writing is a brain process that attaches words to the images in our minds. Some people may not have a strong ability to find just the right words especially if the focus is on WORDS and not on IMAGES.
So here's a suggestion. Notice the images in your mind and describe what you see to your best ability. Stay away from judgments and assumptions. Stick with the facts and state them as accurately and truthfully as possible.
Example: "An angry woman approached me menacingly."
How do you know the woman was angry and menacing? Yes, a woman approached me. She wasn't smiling. In fact, she looked like she was angry. Was she really angry? I have no idea. Did she approach me menacingly? I have no way of knowing. It felt that way.
Rewrite: "A woman approached me. She wasn't smiling. In fact, I got the distinct sense she was angry. It seemed to me her face was so tense, it was ready to explode and that made me feel afraid."
In the Example, the writer is presuming and assuming and making up the facts. In the Rewrite, the story takes on an almost mysterious tone because the story teller is focused on how s/he is reacting to perceptions about the woman. As a reader, you want to know more. What is going to happen next?
What makes the Rewrite especially delightful is that it is also truthful – a couple facts about the woman and much more about the observer who is watching the woman and narrating the story. Always keep in mind the importance of your ability to tune into your five or more senses – how you are perceiving life and what that says both about you and the world around you.
- If you are a journalist, the story you write will be less about you the observer and more about the who, what, where, when, why and how. Often research is required to determine the facts.
If you are less a journalist and more a story teller, the world is yours for the taking (writing). Enjoy!
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Posted: April 22, 2014 Nancy J Conrad