I feel like I don't write about writing as often as I should or would like to. I mostly just...write things. But writing about writing is important, because as a storyteller myself, I know how bombarded writers can be by negativity, the comparison game, or just burnout in general. Writing books and giving them to the world takes loads of time, energy and effort - and sometimes the going can just be downright tough.
BUT, we're all in this together. And the more I learn along the way, the more I want to share it with my fellow writers and aspiring-writers, and swap ideas and advice with pilgrims further down the path.
Writing is home for me. It's hard for me to imagine what my life would be like without writing. It's hard to imagine what my upbringing would have been like without the element of storytelling. I know that I would be a much different person than I am today.
All that said, I find it particularly depressing when I hear someone depreciating their own story ideas, or desire to write a story - whether it's their first book EVER or whether it's just another possible epic to add to the quiver.
Like... why? WHY DO WE HAVE TO SHOOT DOWN OUR IDEAS SO HARDCORE? Why do we have to tell ourselves that our idea isn't good enough, or that we aren't good enough writers to do the story justice? Why do we have to call this little neophyte idea names? In simple terms, it's just kind of mean.
As someone who thrives off the thrill of chasing words, I hate to hear people give themselves a heaping pile of reasons why they can't, shouldn't, and won't. What I want to ask instead is...why not? Why on earth NOT? Give it a try - see what happens. :) In fact, here's 9 pretty darn good reasons why you should.
1. because you just might be passionate about it
Do you find yourself talking about this idea a lot? Maybe all the time? Do you think about it at night before you go to sleep, or maybe lay awake in bed for hours, dreaming up new twists and turns to weave into the plot? Do you find your mind always always returning to this idea - this story that exists only in your own mind?
The French call it raison d'être, the Japanese ikigai. In essence, it means a big, huge, beautiful purpose - a reason to get up in the morning. Sure, writing this potential book isn't the only reason you're here, breathing the sweet air on planet earth. But it might be one of them. And if you've been able to answer 'yes' to any of the questions I've asked above? Then this idea is something you're passionate about. It's something your heart requires; something your soul needs.
2. because you can learn things from your own writing process
Without hesitation I would say that I learn new things from each and every story I have ever written. Like a journey into a country you've never been to before, each one is different. The views are different; the vibes, the tastes, the sounds... it's all new and vibrant. It's impossible to walk away without taking something with you. It's impossible for the experience to not change you in some way.
3. because it doesn't have to be like anyone else's book.
It doesn't have to be a 300,000 word epic. it doesn't have to be about witches or vampires or a world war. It doesn't have to be long and filled with puffy soufflé words. How about it's just honest? and raw? and written like how you would talk to me if we were sipping coffees at 9:49 pm? (yes, i'm that person in starbucks while they're mopping the floors.)
Who said books had to be long? Or pretty? Who said they had to be about a certain subject, or peppered with large, smart words?
I've walked through a heck of a lot of museums, friends. I'm a museum person. I love staring at paintings for long periods of time and thinking hard about the cosmos and why we eat cereal (while my husband follows close behind, carrying most of my belongings). I'm that person. And because I've been to so many museums, I can attest to the fact that not all of the paintings look the same. It's like, in one room you've got Degas and his delicate ballerinas; pink and pale blue poofs of dancing motion across the large canvases, in the next room hangs a plethora of Rembrandt's almost startlingly realistic portrayals of human life, and in another room there's a display of wild, colorful, abstract Picasso's that will bend your mind and capture your eyes for moments at a time.
Art is not alike. And unfortunately we live in a world where 'art' is largely thought of as paintings and sculptures and the like. Not so much writing a novel, or drawing manga, or recording techno music. But the thing is, it's all art. And it's all different.
Imagine if Picasso, or Rembrandt, or Degas had one day sat back in their director chair (not historically accurate, but roll with me) stole a quick look at the canvases of the other painters around them and thought anxiously "Oh my gosh, my painting...! It... it doesn't look like his, or - or hers! Shoot... I must not be doing it right."
The museums would be pretty boring, let me tell you that. Everything would look very similar; the walls would be an ombre of the same color pallet. Long story short: don't write like 'le fancy published authors' write like YOU. You is fresh, you is different, you is unique, you is what you do best.
4. because what you have to say may just be what we all need to hear
Your idea, your story could be what this world needs right now. Look at Harriet Beecher Stowe who changed America with her book Uncle Tom's Cabin. Never never never underestimate the power your words have. Let your voice shine through your writing, and let it be raw, and vulnerable. Because it's the real, vulnerable, true things that reach out and grab hold of our hearts the most. The vulnerable things are the things we can relate to - the things all of us deal with but rarely talk about. The vulnerable things are often the scariest things to write, but write them anyways. Not fearlessly, but bravely.
So remember that, as you toss the idea back and forth in the middle of the night; the idea may just be something you were given. Something the rest of us need in our lives just as much as you do.
5. it's a completely different experience from everything you've ever done.
Even if you've written other books before, each and every single writing experience is unique. Maybe your idea isn't even for a book, perhaps it's for an essay, or a blog post. Maybe you want to write something non-fiction, or maybe you want to start a collaboration.
Whatever it is, embrace it as a brand new opportunity. One that will be unlike anything you have ever done before. Keep an open mind, try finding new spots to write in, buy yourself a new notebook. Remind yourself that this is a new journey, and remind yourself with a few 'external' things like the aforementioned. Enjoy the ride and be open to learning.
6. because there is no right or wrong way to write
Let's put away that giant stack of books on how to develop all the characters and how to plot the 'perfect' story line. Let's stop thinking so much about doing it 'the right way' and think a little more about 'doing it our way'. Like I said, your voice is unique. No one else has your voice. No one except, well, you.
Make characters they way you want to make them. If you want to take notes and plot like crazy, cool. If you want to fly by the seat of your pants and see what happens, cool. If you want to write it in a totally new style or format than anything you've ever seen or written before, cool.
Remember... no one looks at a Rembrandt and a Picasso and, rubbing their chin, declares that Picasso did it right. There is no right or wrong in art. So make your art. (and if you need a little extra inspiration on that score, watch this.)
7. because you don't have to be the 'world's greatest writer'
You don't have to sound like Charles Dickens. Or your sister's favorite poet. Or Anthony Doerr. You don't have to have a big vocabulary, or even a mature voice. You don't have to wait until you're a 'better writer' or go to a learning establishment to become one. All you need is a story. A good, real, story that comes from somewhere deep in your gut; from the marrow of your being.
So stop saying you can't write well enough. If the story is there, it will write itself. Trust that... trust the story, trust yourself. Trust that passion we talked about in #1.
8. because you can't can't can't let the haters get you down
Maybe you're not dealing with only internal voices telling you you can't make it as a writer, or that it's a fantasy to think you can just write a book. Maybe a family member or a colleague or someone you know is giving you negative feedback on your idea and you feel unsuited to the task because of this.
I'm not the greatest person to address this one, because I deal with this too. I see a negative review or comment about my work, and sometimes I find myself questioning whether I am good at what I do, or whether my story is worthwhile. But the thing is... there's always going to be someone who says something negative about something you do. The haters will always have a comment to make no matter what. The only one who decides whether they keep you down or not isn't them... it's you.
You are your only limiter. You are the only one who can hold you back. Not him, or her, or anyone. (and if you need a little extra encouragement...this should do the trick.)
9. because you might just enjoy yourself
Even though all these other reasons are great, write because you want to. Because it will be fun. It will be an adventure. It will be something you will enjoy. And that is 100% okay and awesome and part of the experience. If you don't have fun writing it, who's going to have fun reading it?
So enjoy yourself a little. ;)
Please, please, please add to the list! Tell me in the comments WHY you're writing your current WIP! Or maybe you have a book idea you've been tossing around...? What would you say is the top #1 reason why you write or make your art?