My Manifesto Part 2 : The Why, How and What of Writing
In Part One of my Manifesto, I stated that a “ Writer is someone who writes.”
My intent was to promote writing as a something everyone can and should do.
Today I am going to address some anticipated questions.
Why should I write? Who do I think I am to try writing?
Writing is the great equalizer. No matter our age, background or experiences we all have stories to tell. Our experiences and stories are as unique and individual as we are. They need to be written down, if only for ourselves. Your story, your dreams, your ideas deserve to be written down.
It is through writing that we take a journey of discovery, finding out how the world looks through our eyes and through the filter of our thoughts and feelings. It is what makes us human and also humane.
Writing helps us discover what we really think, feel and want. We can use it to uncover lost dreams, memories, or passions that we may have forgotten or perhaps never understood. Writing brings us home to ourselves.
How do I get started?
One of the wonderful features of writing, is how easy it is to begin. Unlike many creative pursuits, there are few start-up costs. No fancy tools, elaborate supplies or equipment are needed. Do you have some paper and a pen or pencil? Then you have all the supplies you need. If you have a computer, you can use it. I choose to compose by hand for much of my writing practice. I will elaborate on the reason for that preference in a future post.
Another feature that writing offers over many other creative pursuits is that you need no special place. Writing can and does happen everywhere: libraries, coffee shops, waiting rooms, carpool lines, on the bus or subway, sitting in the bleachers during a child’s sport practice and so on.
You also do not need large blocks of time. John Grisham wrote his first novel, A Time to Kill, during court recesses, before work and during his lunch hour while working 60-70 hours per week as a lawyer. Find 10 minutes in the morning, or write during your lunch break at work. Schedule a few minutes before bed, or give up one 30 minute show on TV or Netflix episode and write instead. You have time to do the things you want to do.
What do I write?
So you have paper, pen, a table at the coffee shop and 15 minutes. Now what?
Here are some ways to incorporate writing into your life. Pick a form and stick with it for a while and see if it resonates with you. If not, try another. Sometimes it takes a few false starts until we discover the structure our writing wants to take. I will elaborate more on each of these writing forms in future posts.
~ Keep a diary. Write about your days. What you do, who you see, what the weather is like. Keeping a diary helps you slow down and pay attention to your life. It also helps you keep count of your days and remember them. Start with just a few sentences.
Start with “ Today I…..”
~ Keep a journal. A journal is different from a diary. In a diary you record what you do. In a journal you record what you think. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, and other books on writing and creativity, recommends writing Morning Pages. Morning Pages are three handwritten pages in which you record your thoughts, worries, annoyances, emotions and ideas. You write whatever is on your mind and see where it leads you. Morning Pages, when done regularly, often lead to insight, clarity and even new projects or inspiration.
Start with “ I am …” or “I wish…” . In doing Morning Pages the idea is to just keep your hand moving and write whatever emerges in your thoughts until you have 3 pages written by hand. No editing or second guessing allowed. You may be surprised with what emerges. To find out more on Morning Pages, you can go to www.juliacameronlive.com or search for Morning Pages on the internet.
~ Keep a gratitude journal. This idea has many proponents including Oprah, Sarah Ban Breathnach and Anne Voskamp . In a gratitude journal you list those things that you are thankful for each day. This is often done at the end of the day. It can foster feelings of contentment and well-being and also make you more attuned to your life.
Start with “ Today I am grateful for…”
~ Thinking on paper. Often if I have a project I am working on or an idea to explore, I get a legal pad and just write. Writing down my chaotic thoughts and ideas often helps me to begin to see connections or holes in my thinking.
Start with “ My idea is…..”
~ Write your memories. Writing a memoir for yourself or for your family is a valuable and satisfying endeavor. Writing your memories helps you recall forgotten incidents, people and events and to reflect upon them. It is also a way to record your life for those you care about. It is a way to declare “ I was here. This is my story.” It will be yours and yours alone. If you don’t write it no one will.
Start with “ When I was 10…”
There are many other writing forms to explore: opinion pieces, personal essays, food memoirs, book/movie/restaurant reviews, travel logs, letters, science or nature writing, poetry and fiction. In future posts I will about each of these in greater detail.
For now, grab that spiral notebook or legal pad, a pen and a cup of coffee and give yourself a few minutes of writing time. Start today!