Early in life, I knew that I hated grammar and everything related to the Language Arts. The English language has so many rules and exceptions. I struggled through every single year up until my Senior year in high school. That was when I met Mrs Allen. She was a quirky sort of teacher that taught me creative writing. For the first time, I was able to express myself without getting bogged down in the rules and conventions. I learned free writing which helped when I recently wrote my first novel. One of the reason I liked this class was because I accessed what was inside me.
My euphoria didn’t last long. I tested out of my English class at trade school, but then we had to write several papers, which seemed to only lead to endless re-writes. Oh my god! “This is definitely not what I want to do with the rest of my life,” I thought. I struggled with why it mattered to get it all technically correct and coherent and paced right, etc. So for many years, I avoided writing anything if I could. I liked writing computer code because it’s rules were pretty simple and there weren’t any exceptions.
Then, I decided to finish my Bachelors degree in an accelerated program. We would study one subject for several weeks, then write a paper to demonstrate our understanding. It got me back in the flow of writing. It was a good mix, because although they cared about the grammar rules, it didn’t affect the grade that much. The focus was on whether we understood the content.
In 2000, I wrote a couple of books that were essentially transcripts of my sermons. It felt good to feel like the words I spoke once were now preserved, even though now I don’t think I would write those two books.
Writing has always helped me discover what I think. When I have to organize my thoughts into a coherent stream, it somehow sends me deep inside to discover what I really think and sometimes, what I have always known. It accesses the deep, spiritual, eternal part of me and provides clarity to my scattered mind.
Although I look to others for inspiration, when I try to mimic someone else or borrow their ideas, it’s somewhat like chewing gum that’s already been sampled. People like Jen Hatmaker have a very engaging style, but it is because it’s her style and she is being authentic. I’ve tried to sound like someone else and it never works out well.
I just taped a podcast where the host said I was the calmest guest she has ever interviewed. Maybe that is partly because I am more at peace than ever, or maybe it is because I was just being myself. I am more and more comfortable in my own skin. When I try to sound excited or mimic other people, it just comes off wrong.
Last winter, I wrote my first novel that will most likely be called “The Hotel.” Paul Young told me to “just get in the river and let it take you where it does,” or something like that. I was amazed at the characters that developed, but also that many of the characters carried bits and pieces of me with them. They were essentially my fears, my hopes and my new understandings. In other words, they embodied my own internal journey.
If you are new to writing, I would encourage you to do it at least on some level. Realize, that it feels like facing a brick wall most days until you start writing. So, practice free writing and assume that no one else will read it. When I wrote the novel, I set a goal of 1000 words a day. Every day at work, I would think about the characters and what they would do next, then I would look over yesterday’s writing and then write another chapter or two. After 45 days, I had 72,000 words (which is about enough for a novel).
It was literally one of the most fun and exciting things I have ever done.
Of course writing takes practice, so don’t be concerned with the quality, just start writing.
Some people have trouble with things like meditation, but I feel like I accomplish something similar by writing. Just like most things, the hardest things is getting started. I still don’t like grammar and spelling and sentence structure, etc. I rely heavily on editors and I read every thing I write to Laura to make sure it sounds like what I would say.
Try some free writing today. Just write 1000 words. Once you get started, you won’t believe how fast it goes. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar or anything like that. Just write about what you feel and chase the rabbit wherever it goes. Then just be present with those feelings, emotions and thoughts that come up. Try to be authentically you and totally present.
I’d love to hear how it goes
Be where you are, be who you are!