Today I wanted to talk about one of the major blocks you will run into when it comes to writing. Many people out there like to write about a number of different factors. Some popular ones include: how you must ALWAYS write to avoid writer's block, write what you know, how you must write for yourself like no one is looking, etc. However, today I'd like to talk about some problems with these foundations. Additionally, I'd like to address accepting what AND how you want to write as well as simply letting yourself do so.
To explain, one of the things that I often see is encouragement to young writers to constantly write. Write like you're going to die tomorrow. Never let the words stop pouring from the tap! If you make sure to write a thousand words a day, you'll be a published author by next week! But where is the reality in that? Inspiration and motivation aren't an ever flowing stream and, much like water from a well, will simply run dry. That's not to say that a well stays empty forever, but having the understanding enough to LOOK into the well first to see if there's water sounds like a pretty good start.
So, first and foremost, if you're sitting at home stressing about writing your next thousand words, I have a recommendation. Don't. Take a moment. Take a breath. Get a coffee. Go for a walk. Talk to friends. The wellspring of writing is fed by the waters of life and experience and if you simply whittle away in front of a keyboard aching to be a writer than it's unlikely you will get anywhere if you have nothing to draw upon. No water equals no well. No motivation or experience equals weak, if any, writing. Let yourself live. Let yourself breathe.
That brings nicely into another core rule: "write what you know". Now, some people understand this and some people don't, but the idea behind "writing what you know" refers to the idea of drawing upon your own experiences, as mentioned above. Some people take this very literally, thinking that in order to be able to write about a racecar driver, they must race themselves to "get into the character's head". Other people understand this to be a much more metaphysical concept. "I have felt heartbreak and therefore will share a story about having one's heart broken," this writer might say to a friend. But hereso again, we must examine the wellspring of experience.
Maybe your own life was pretty easy? A mom, a dad, a dog and a car. A good job later in life and a significant other that treated you well. Happy friends and happy life. Nothing noteworthy whatsoever. What do you draw upon? At the end of the day, writing what you know is a recommendation based on the idea that experience and tragedy breeds the ability to tell a good tale. And they aren't wrong. Those with experience have EXPERIENCE that others don't.
BUT, what this concept ignores is the power of imagination. It ignores that most writers are what they are because they are so very thirsty, not just to share their experiences but to experience more. They want to see and do and know things that they've never done. To use the well analogy again: trying to limit yourself solely to your own experience is like having a well full of water and only allowing yourself one glass of that water. It may be sweet and tasty, but it's limited. Let yourself dream. Let yourself imagine. Explore worlds and realms and feelings you never thought possible. If you don't like the taste of the water, dump it out and try a fresh glass.
The last bit is probably the most subjective. "Write like no one is watching." This idea comes from the fact that many people feel judged when they write. They often believe that their work has little to no merit and sharing it will result in mockery of the work they've done. They worry that people will discount their tiring hours of labor and everything they hope to achieve. Therefore, many writers feel very nervous about sharing or the idea that their work will be shared. This is well and good, but discounts one major problem: some writers are simply motivated by the opportunity to share.
Ironically, this one really rings home for me. Anytime I've been encouraged to "just write" I generally ignore the recommendation simply because it won't have an audience. Authors like myself are fueled by the commentary. By the criticisms and praise. By the good and the bad. This is one of the truest examples of "no one size fits all". Some authors do well never sharing their works. Others will be unable to get off the ground because they need the motivation and the criticism and the compliments to validate what they are doing. So, if you find yourself writing at home and questioning "Why am I doing this?" that very well may be your answer. You might need to switch it up so you can make SURE you have an audience versus the other way around.
Last, but not least, this brings us to the point that isn't spoken about so often: accepting what and how you write. Every author is different. Everyone has different needs and wants, motivations and experience, goals and end games. For some, they are satisfied by scribbling away in a basement with a journal. For others, their ego-maniacs with blogs telling others what to do. But for many, it's somewhere in between, and trying to force yourself into any one role based on any one expectation can easily be one of the most damning things you do to yourself. For many of us, the very act of writing is a learned process that we use for our own gains to share our experiences. We take what was given to us and make it our own while simultaneously making it like those writers and books we look up to. We ache to make a place in the world through the unique alteration of 26 letters that every other writer has used.
But, many of us limit ourselves based on the ideas of what should or shouldn't be written. Perhaps you are a science fiction enthusiast with an ache to write some romance? Do you go for it or simply wait because you're busy and it's not your normal genre. Perhaps, as noted earlier, you are motivated by being able to write for others, but something occurs to you that you aren't able to share. Do you write or let the feeling pass? Maybe you're just a giant, dirty pervert who likes penning down your most horrible fantasies yet you never, ever want to share it. Do you keep those thoughts in your head or put them down to enjoy later?
It doesn't matter what YOUR answer is, so long as there is an answer. One huge writing block that often doesn't get addressed is simply the fact of accepting the feelings you get and writing what and how you want. Don't be forced to follow a code and don't ignore your desires because they are outside of the norm. Some of your greatest ideas can come simply by playing with something you don't often touch. Maybe you want to create something completely different and just haven't had the heart to admit it yet.
Writing is expression. Whether that's an expression of yourself or an expression for others to see, denying any given facet of it will limit you the same as removing one's arm. You may be able to function without it, you may not, but you will not function the same as if you had both arms.
With that said, go out that and do what you want. There are rules to live by, but writing isn't one of them. Use them as a guide. Use them to help. But never use them to limit your own love and creativity. Let them drive you forward, never backwards. While you might trip or stumble, you will never fall.