|Marie James writes what she wants!|
How many people have told you what you should write?
For most of us, it started back in elementary school. Did you write weekend stories? They were produced on paper with lines for writing what you did on the weekend and a big blank space for a crayon drawing. I actually liked writing weekend stories, but there was never enough space for everything I wanted to say. I often put more words in the picture space.
In upper grades, writing assignments included research papers, essays, and topical themes. As a member of the high school newspaper staff, I was assigned articles on various subjects. College writing classes included more assignments, often urging me to explore new techniques and genres.
I value the broad spectrum of writing experiences and exposure. But see the pattern? We were often told what to write during all our school years. Some of us also wrote on our own, choosing our methods and topics. As a teenaged girl, I wrote lots of introspective poetry inspired by my churning emotions and questions about life.
Though I loved writing, I pursued a different vocational path and prepared to become a teacher. But I always wanted to write…and I did write—a lot. I journaled for my eyes only. I served as secretary of countless organizations, writing minutes and communications. I wrote newsletter articles for church, school, and community organizations.
Finding a new direction
Some years later, I decided I'd like to have "something" published by a real publisher. I told just a few people—family members and close friends. I was thinking of a nonfiction magazine article.
At that point, I experienced a bit of schooldays déjà vu, because I started getting "assignments" again.
A few longtime friends thought I "should" write a book of poetry. Never mind that I hadn't written poetry since junior high, with the exception of required class assignments.
Someone else said I'd "have to" become comfortable writing foul language and sex scenes because that's the basis of best-selling novels. Never mind that I don't write fiction—and I'd never even thought of attempting a best-seller.
I did reach my goal of having "something" published. No, there's not a book of poetry or best-selling novel bearing my byline. Instead, I've published magazine articles—some on assignment and some submitted after speculative queries. A few anthology stories and a ghost-written book have left my desk and ended up in published form.
But I have also gotten great joy from documenting my parents' and grandparents' life histories just for our family. I really like creating newsletters and other publications for small organizations. Need a press release for a community event? I'm on it. Even technical writing like updating office procedures manuals has been fulfilling.
Following the process
In my home office, both paper files and my computer document files attest to the fact that I often write furiously to some point just short of completion, reach a point of satisfaction, and move on to the next topic on my heart.
Obviously, I don't always write complete manuscripts. Sometimes I write just to clear ideas from my brain and make room for more, and publishing is the farthest thing from my mind.
The bottom line is, I write because I love to write. And for the most part, I write what I want to write.
How about you?
Are you writing what you really want to write? Are you unwrapping whatever thoughts and ideas are bursting from your heart? Are you creating in the genre and style that flow naturally from your fingers?
Are you writing for the reasons you want to write? Are you reaching the readers you hoped to reach? Are you moving toward your goals of first publication or becoming well-known or just getting the message out there?
For me the greatest joy in writing is truly in the journey. And for a writer, that journey begins in the heart.
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After reading this, I'm encouraged and inspired to continue down my own path.
I've read a plethora of books telling me to write what I know and have a passion for. Sometimes what I know is just plain old boring to write about. In trying to make old news relevant, my writing becomes listless.
So I try a different approach. I go "behind the scenes" of what I know. The underground stuff. The details. The guts of a topic.
By doing this, I've discovered a new creative personality. I write what I want to write about not what I'm supposed to write about. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't but it keeps me writing and my creative juices flowing.
Oh lovely post. This makes my novel in rhyming verse about a kangaroo with a bee stuck to its middle sound perfectly normal. Not everything you dream up will be commercial but if you really enjoy writing it I think it's good for you like you say.
Super valuable, thank you!! And I love your closing lines, beautiful, Robert!
Michael--I love your concept of getting behind the scenes to the underground stuff. There is so much to be shared about what is old hat to us!
Catherine--I would like to hear more about that kangaroo! Is your rhyming verse published somewhere?
I've been doing a lot of that lately. Heck, usually I don't write stuff with an audience in mind.
Lately, it's become painfully difficult to write anything of length because I've little inspiration to keep me going.
So I just write what I feel strongly about or what comes to mind and keep "venting" or following that path until I get evertyhing out. And if it turns into something, that's great. If not, that's fine too.
In a way, it kinda sucks because I write a lot and whenever I get asked about it, I can divulge what it is. Either because it's a little too racy, maybe a little controversial or I'm afraid its so close to reality that they'll see right between the lines.
But above all at the moment, I'd like to continue to do what I'm doing and maybe someday I can divulge what it is I have been doing to other people.
this post is so perfect for me today. i pitched an idea for an article and someone gave me a ton of feedback on the direction to go with the article. i heard a small voice in my head say, "um, i don't wanna do all that horseshit, i just want to work on my book and my blog".
i'm considering listening to that voice - especially since it was so polite and honest.
i keep thinking i have to be "published" somewhere in order to get an agent to pay attention. but guess what? i don't want to spend 10 of my precious hours, writing a story for $50. for what? some more hits on my blog?
not worth it.
thanks for confirming this for me.
Jackie--Sometimes I reserve "the right to remain silent" until I'm ready to share something. And some things are not intended for any other eyes but mine. I've found it helps to have something in the works that I can tell people about or even let them read.
Simone--In this day and age I think agents will look at blogs too--they represent our most relaxed and natural writing styles. Maybe Robert can tell us more about that. Also, blog posts can grow into chapters and books or at least provide us with good outlines.
Sometimes it seems like a crazy dance between writing what comes naturally and following writing assignments and their parameters. Hopefully we can make time for both and create a good balance.
Wholeheartedly concur. 100% so I started a blog, is liberating. If you like a good yarn give us a visit.
Thanks for posting this article.
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