From a young age, I was drawn to the written word. I loved to read. Books informed me, transported me, and transformed me.
Author Eudora Welty wrote, of her childhood fascination with books, "It had been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming of themselves like grass."
As I realized that books were the creative act of people—that sub-section of creatives we call, authors—I began to want to write. To be a part of the creation of something, from nothing.
Many times throughout my life, I've been so emboldened as to describe myself as a writer. And a few times, I've been so bold as to call myself an author.
I've written books, short stories, magazine articles, speeches, commercials, poems, songs, scripts, and even a technical manual or two.
But there have also been times in my life when I've grown so frustrated, so perplexed, so weary of the creative life, that I've renounced my writing. I've put away the pen and said, "No more."
Thankfully, the writing always calls me back.
The Problem: The Paradox of Creative Writing
Writing is a solitary act. We write alone. We struggle and fuss with the order of the words, which word to use, and how to say what it is we are trying to say. We argue with ourselves, sometimes for hours, about the placement of a comma. We stare at a blank page and wonder where to begin. Or we look at a page full of words and consider how to make those symbols communicate to a reader what it was we meant to communicate.
And, for many of us, that time spent agonizing, wrestling with words, is time spent alone. Writing is the act of going so deeply into ourselves that we turn ourselves inside out and leave our inner life on the page.
Often, we feel unprepared to actually accomplish the grand task we've set for ourselves. This is especially true for a fledgling writer, but it is a phantasm that visits even the veteran wordsmith with every new project, especially if they are dedicated to pushing their creative and stylistic boundaries.
There are ways to overcome these fears, obviously. Otherwise, we wouldn't have books to read. Many writers try to do it on their own: they read books and magazine articles about writing, they study great literature, and they practice, practice, practice in isolation.
Inevitably, people who decide to pick up a pen and attempt to tell the story burning inside them make a bold start to their novel or write dozens of pages of their memoir, only to hit a brick wall where they suddenly doubt. They doubt the process. They doubt the vision of the end result. They doubt themselves.
They not only doubt their ability to tell the story they were once so eager to tell, they begin to question whether it was ever even a very good story in the first place. They litigate their own ideas and the inner critic quickly transforms into a masterful lawyer, laying out argument after argument about why writing that book, or poem, or screenplay is a bad idea.
The brick wall moment creates a lot questions in the writer's mind about craft, process, and the creative mindset, and these questions often result in:
—Lack of motivation, followthrough, or focus
—Frustration with under-developed technical skill
—Despair that the written product seems flat, lifeless, or confusing
—Realization that we need some outside help.
Does this sound Familiar?
These feelings aren't unusual. It is a natural, if frustrating, scenario, familiar to writers of all levels of experience. But, it can be enough to make you want to put down your pen. These sorts of doubts and frustrations can suck the joy out of our writing life.
And, I speak from experience. I've been in that spot before. There were two periods, in my mid-twenties, and in my mid-thirties when I stopped writing. I gave up. I told my inner critic he was right, I wasn't REALLY a writer, and I would defer to his stern judgement that my time would be better spent doing anything else. Or, even, nothing else at all.
Thankfully, I found ways to return to the desk, to pick up the pen, and to write. It turned out, the inner critic was wrong. Maybe not completely. There were things I still needed to learn, and there was plenty of growth to be realized, but the answer wasn't to give up. It was to go through.
And, one of the key revelations I had was the great paradox of creative writing: Even though writing is a solitary act, we really can't do it all alone. Or, at least, our writing greatly benefits when we find a community of other creatives, a mentor, or even just a fair and balanced sounding board for our work who can help us put the inner critic into a proper context.
That's why I started Words Matter Creative Writing: to help other writers get the clarity, support, and perspective they need to invigorate their writing life.
Through classes, seminars and workshops, critique groups, and one-on-one creative mentoring, I've helped energize, inspire, and inform the creative lives of hundreds of writers.
Through my blog, videos, podcasts, and speaking engagements, I've been able to touch the lives of even more writers, from all around the world.
I've helped soothe their frustrations and provided tools to overcome their roadblocks.
I've helped them move forward, and get unstuck.
And, I've provided guidance to help them realize lifelong goals.
I can offer the same solutions to you.
You can find more information, including ways to contact me here at my website: www.WordsMatterESW.com.
The next step is up to you. You may feel lost, but there is a trail to follow. You just have to take the next steps. Don't spend another day alone in the creative wilderness.
You have a story to tell, and your words matter...let me help you discover how to make them count.