WHY DO YOU
WANT TO WRITE?
Writing can be a great pleasure or it can seem like an impossible task. It can be rewarding, something to anticipate with eagerness, or it can be painful, something to dread. Like all forms of art, when you do it, it can make you proud or it can make you feel not good enough. I sat down at my computer this morning like I do every morning, my cat took her usual place between the screen and the keyboard, her furry head hitting the keys and driving me crazy, and I began to think: Why are we driven to fill up a blank page with words? What makes a person a good writer? A good dancer. A good painter? What makes one person do their art with abandon and another person feel blocked and awkward and afraid to press
I know both of those states of mind. I’ve been writing for a long time and some days, I feel inspired and eager to keep on going. Other days, I feel blocked and want to quit. But I carry on. For me, it has to do with how I approach my work and how much I value my personal expression, no matter what it is or how it sounds on any particular day. Even though I’m an editor and writing coach, if I really think about it, I don’t believe you can teach someone to write. All you can do is encourage them to remove the blocks, the judgments and expectations, take an honest look at themselves and put what they see and feel on the page.
It relieves a lot of pressure when there is no good or bad, no right or wrong way to write. There is only opening your heart, finding what is there and allowing it to shine. It isn’t about technique, the way you turn a phrase, how you use punctuation or how many big words you use. What gives writing value is the depth of authenticity, how honest you are with yourself and how truthfully you express it.
In 1945, legendary modern dance innovator, Martha Graham, famously sent an inspirational note to her friend, new choreographer Agnes de Mille. Agnes had said she felt like she wasn’t good enough and in essence, Ms. Graham responded with something like this. I paraphrase:
You don’t have to determine how good your work is. Or how valuable it is. That is not up to you. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to just do it because if you block your individual expression, there is only one you and it will be lost for all time. You simply have to keep your heart open and listen to the urges that motivate you.”
I take that to mean that judging your work as wonderful or terrible is not your job. When other people criticize you or your artistic expression, it means nothing. I like to think of magnificent impressionist painter, Vincent Van Gogh, who never sold a painting in his lifetime, but he kept on painting . . . for painting’s sake. In ten years, he did 900 paintings with no encouragement from anyone. He
simply had to unburden his heart and when he looked inside, his paintings were there, begging for light and expression.
As you sit down to write, it really doesn’t matter why you’re doing it. All you have to do is look inside, feel what is there and courageously put it on the page. No matter what it is. When you express yourself truthfully, when you unburden your heart, you begin to feel lighter, easier and less confused. When you stop judging yourself as an artist and start appreciating yourself, your creativity will soar and your heart will become open and filled with hope. And that is a
good enough reason.