“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair – the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.”
~ Stephen King, On Writing
I spend a good amount of time thinking about words. How words affect our daily lives, our hearts, emotions… the goals we set, or the despair we put upon ourselves.
That probably isn’t too surprising for a writer—and an avid reader—who immerses herself in writing and books as many hours of the day as she can squeeze in.
I’m a fan of Stephen King’s book On Writing. My copy is well-worn and has it’s own spot in my bookshelf. His point—quoted above— about coming to the blank page seriously resonates within me. Once written, words live on forever, especially now in the world of computers. We have a responsibility to be careful with what we send out into the world.
Words affect people. They hurt, help, entertain, inform, encourage, transport love or carry hate to the corners of the earth.
Sometimes we fire off our words like a weapon carelessly loaded, not very well aimed. We regret it when they splatter the target but it’s hard to take them back. Hard to erase what’s already been written. Hopefully, we learn to respect the mighty weapons of the pen and keyboard.
Sometimes we won’t put pen to paper out of fear of not having the exact right words. We have so much respect for the written word that the page stays blank and no words are written at all. Our opinion is silent. Our words go unheard. Our thoughts are lost among the chatter of others braver than ourselves. The fear of being seen and heard is palatable. The pain of being invisible time and time again is worse. We are stuck, lost in the indecision, as the words build up inside of us, clogging our soul.
Sometimes we find the words we wanted to say and capture them on paper. The exhilaration of connecting with the perfect word is worth every moment of suffering. Then we wait for the approval of the audience. The acceptance we secretly seek but are afraid to admit to. Then comes the torture of knocking on doors, selling our writing. The fear of rejection and public disgrace that is as much of the job of writing as the finding of words.
No one said the life of a writer was going to be easy.
Is it any wonder that Hallmark has already written cards that all you have to do is sign your name to without having to take a chance at having to write even a single sentence? Is it any wonder that sock drawers and underwear drawers all across the world are filled with half-completed novels and stories going nowhere?
The written word is powerful and frightening. Announcing the intent to call yourself a writer or to say you are writing a book or that you plan to earn your living writing (especially online) will get you a good number of sideways glances and condescending looks. Even from people who mean well. It takes a great deal of resolve to get up every day and face the pen and keyboard in the face of adversarial stress from the words themselves and their human counterparts.
How do writers face the morning ready to take on the challenge of the written word?
For me, love conquers all. Sounds silly but it’s the closest I can come to an honest answer. I write because I have a love and passion to write and I have been writing since I was a small child. Writing is how I express myself and let my true emotions come forth. Sometimes I find that words get stuck in my throat and won’t make it out of my mouth, but they will find their way out of my pen or keyboard. Once I’ve seen what I have written, then I can get a true handle on what I really feel.
When writing fiction, I listen. I listen to my dreams, the quiet whispers of characters in conversation in my mind while I am busy doing other things. I eavesdrop on them when they think I’m not listening at all. Most of the time, despite our best laid plans, Deb and I have no idea what our characters are going to do until they tell us on the page. It’s as much of a surprise for us as it will be to the readers. One important trait for a fiction writer is that we have to be able to bend. Words don’t like to be tied down. They want to flow.
I have no choice in the matter of writing. Not if I want to live any kind of sane life. If I didn’t write I would fill up with an overflow of words until I burst. So, the obstacles are something I have to overcome. I have to write. It isn’t an option to me. And I love it. I wouldn’t want life any other way.
How about you? How do you handle the written word?
Do you have a love affair with words? How do you manage it?
Want more of Life’s Little Inspirations? Want to be a part of our fun community? Please join us in the comment section with your thoughts and comments. We are glad to have you here!
Rachel Resnick says
Wendi, you wise and wonderful, word-drunk guru. Loved the post! So cool you let Stephen King set the tone. Much resonated, but what pricked the writing soul was the bit about hesitating in writing blogs because of such extreme love. Respect. And fervor. Er, that would be me. I’m used to drafting and crafting in the literary world. Yet business and blogging demands more regularity. To serve the clients. to show up. More unleashing of the imperfect. Thanks for the reminder, nudge and permission! Your fiery fan, Rachel
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Wendi Kelly says
When I started LLI many years ago, it was an experiment to see if I had the discipline to call myself a writer. A test! So, more important to me than the quality, which was important, was the regularity of Butt-in-Chair- Writing. The forming of thought,putting to word, releasing into the world for all to see despite the fear of imperfection and ridicule.
In the beginning, I made myself do it every day, then settled into three times a week, and it was only after I was confident enough to call myself a writer and move into fiction,(where my heart yearned to live) that I relaxed.
Creativity demands to play in the sandbox of imperfection. Editors demand to work at the desk of perfection. There is room for both, right?
Thanks for visiting!
Jennifer Bourn says
Wendi – Loved this post! It’s pretty easy to bang out an all business, boring post for a blog … but no one wants to write that and NO ONE wants to read that! Writing is such a personal thing … it has to come from the heart! I love hearing how much you love writing and love what you do every day! I think if more business owners embraced writing as a way to share their love of what they do — and not stress so much about their writing being something epic that will live in infamy, we’d all be reading many more great blogs!
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Pamela Wills says
Wendi…now I really really get why I love you!!! You (and Deb) live the examined life of writers EVERY DAY. You write for your clients and for your Selves. I love how you both write such great fiction AND nonfiction. And I love how much of your expertise, experience, heartaches and triumphs you share. I always dreamed of becoming a writer/dancer (!!!) and after writing my weekly blog for close to two years now without fail, I feel like I’m getting there. It took me awhile to find my voice but I found it and now I use it all the time! Haha it really is liberating to write often. It really does unclog that logjam! You are so right! It’s good to know you. Thanks for sharing this! xo
Kerry Swetmon says
Sweet, sweet post. It makes me feel peaceful and tolerant (of myself). I used to write a whole lot more than I do now. This inspires me so much
Cindy Ratzlaff says
I write a little each day and when I’m having trouble or feel blocked I connect, on SKYPE, with my writing partner. We set a kitchen timer and write non-stop, with no self editing, for 5 minutes. Then we read what we’ve written to each other. The accountability of writing, silently, with someone helps me break that writers block.
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