Hey, You. Yes, You. Write Something!
Writing about writing; the importance of the inky workout; everything is copy; the equal value of Un-writing; a writer's enrichment
Remember: if you are not speaking it, you are storing it, and that shit gets heavy
- Christina Isabel
I've said before: my writing is for me, more than it is for anyone else. It's me, letting the words spill and arranging them on the page. I wrote about piercing a mind-boil and letting the goo flow.
I was really talking about how writing is so very personal to me, and why it's hard to share what I write. I didn't really dig deeply into the cathartic element of it. I didn't take the opportunity to explore the other side of the coin. To spell out my belief: for a writer, it's bad for you to not-write.
We don't write because it's exciting, although sometimes it is. We don't do it because we're going to (we might, maybe, hopefully) get paid (although sometimes we do). We don't even do it because we love it, because sometimes we don't.
We (human beings) have a deep, deep need for expression. You wouldn't put an animal in a cage without opportunity to express normal behaviours. A chinchilla needs her dust bath. A cat needs her scratch post. An elephant needs trees to browse on, and elephant chums. You are a writer, so writing is your enrichment.
You eat a vegetable. You brush your teeth. You drink water. You put yourself in the sunshine or fresh air periodically. You write.
You're like a plant with opposable thumbs and notebooks.
Sometimes the urge siezes us, and the grip of those talons is a joy. The words spill out effortlessly. We write with total abandon. Other days, our muse is nowhere to be seen. Every word, like drawing blood from a stone.
My opinion: the difference between a person and a Writer is this: when the juice is not flowing, a Writer leans into it and writes anyway. Not just on the days when it's easy, but also when it's hard. Especially when it's hard.
Sometimes it's boring. Sometimes it's uncomfortable. It can be a flight into fancy, or it can be a kind of therapy. We can create entire worlds in our imagination. We can people them with rich characters, fantastical creatures, complex political intrigue, adventure, romance... But imagination is twined with introspection, and the latter is not always a fun jolly time.
If you are a writer, writing is work. You tie your laces, show up, and ply your craft. You have to.
It's what you are.
In Naked Truth I also mentioned,
"Fish swim. Moles dig. Sparrows fly. I write."
Now consider: what is a fish that doesn't swim? Not very healthy, I imagine. Dead, possibly.
What is a writer that doesn't write? I don't believe it's too dramatic to say: a little something in you dies when you don't write... so WRITE SOMETHING.
It doesn't matter if it isn't any good. Absolute shit is better than an empty page. Flex the muscle. If it's weak, work it. Even if it hurts. Especially if it hurts.
Write! Even if you think you're "no good at it". Even if someone else has told you you're bad at it. If you want to get better at anything, you have to be willing to suck at it first. So suck.
It doesn't matter if you write stuff you would never show to a twin soul. Remember, the words are for you first and foremost. Yours to write. To pull from the depths and bleed on to the page, to rearrange, to cross out. Anyone else reading them is extra. It's gravy.
It doesn't matter if you don't get paid. You don't expel CO2 because someone is paying you to do it. Capybaras don't spend time bathing because they're thinking kerchingg!
Just write something.
If the words won't come, that's OK. Take the opportunity to read. It's part of the process. Breathe softly. Soak in the words. Let the osmosis happen.
Really notice stuff. Anything - anyone - can be written into a story.
Open your eyes, then open them again.
Allow time. How much time will vary from one person to another. You will know in your bones when it's been too long. You'll feel it.
In the meantime, let yourself percolate.
Are the words flowing yet?
If not, here are some of the things I like to do when the ink is running dry...
Good old fashioned writing prompts
You can find these all over the internet - taste some. Try them on for size.
Give it a twist. Make it your own. The prompt is for a romance? Make it dystopian. The prompt is for a vampire story? Make the vampire crave something other than blood.
My own favourite piece was the result of one of those prompts. If you have one, please share it with me! (Of course, if you're entering a contest, make sure to stay within its parameters. I would imagine the judges see so many pieces, they start to become same-y after a while. A story with a novel perspective could well give you an edge. Probably.)
Write what you see
Try this: write the room you are sitting in. Describe it. Use the plainest language you can. Tell your reader about it. "There is a picture in the middle of the wall." "There is an orchid on the windowsill". And then go back and edit and change each line to show us. I actually really like this exercise.
Go out, take a notebook with you, and people-watch. Create entire characters based on the little snippets you see. Give them their own stories. Write those stories. The Yoghurt-Smelling Lady on The Bus has found her way into one of my drafts.
Write a memory
Pick a memory, and write that. Squeeze every last drop from it until your brain creaks. Swipe your paintbrush across the canvas and capture the details most vivid to you. Even if they seem odd or obscure. Let us live it with you. The little things that stand out and shine - make us see them as clearly as you do.
Write twenty memories. Give them one line each. Pick them at random. They don't have to be in any kind of order. Chronology doesn't matter. How significant they are to your life isn't important either. Save the list somewhere. Next time you're feeling creatively disadvantaged, choose one to write about. Shut your eyes and jab your finger at the page and go.
Edit, darling! Edit!
If you've read, and you've percolated, and you're still feeling artistically constipated... Table your plan for a new draft of anything just now, and edit instead. It could be an old story you've already written, or a previous chapter.
Halve the number of pronouns in it. She. I. You probably have too many. These are little words that can pull your reader out of your story. Prune them savagely.
Writing is important, but so is unwriting. Get rid of as many words as possible.
Scratch "that". Every time you use that a kitten dies. Look at the kitten. Look at it.
Here's my favourite:
1. Get a bottle of tequila
2. Read an old piece of fiction you've written/an old chapter
3. Take a shot for every time you've used the word "as"
4. If you get hammered, make a note for future, sober you: you're going to need to edit that baby.
Re-write an old fairytale
This is one of my favourites. When I was about thirteen, our English teacher had us do this. Every so often I use it again. Take an old, well-known story and turn it on its head.
Here are my questions to you!
1. How do you get the ink flowing when you're feeling a little dry?
2. What percentage of your scribblings gets shared with others?
3. Drop me a link in the comments to one of your Vocal stories that you feel never got the reads it deserved.
Thank you for reading! Comment so I can reciprocate!
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I read very well but your work had me stuttering because of all the words that you know! Thank you so much for your advice. I think I've used some of your points in my writing already and I didn't discover your story yet. 🥰
I have been struggling with my writing for awhile. I get so defeated sometimes. I get too busy. I put too much on my own plate. That's what actually led me too your story. I've been poking around trying to support other writers while taking a break from writing and research and I'm so glad I did. I love this. The part where you said to people watch, I sort of did that by accident the other day. I was sitting outside with my kids and writing while they played. I was working on a story I have been tending to for the last few years when a tiny little shed across the field caught my eye and BAM a new story was born lol. Thank you for this piece. Made me feel a pretty motivated :) Good work. As for sharing one of my stories that didn't get the reads it deserved, I think I'm going to go with this one- https://vocal.media/horror/sadie-s-first-date I was actually quite proud of it... but also defeated. I feel some type of way about the challenges. This was an entry for a contest but it was never even read at the time apparently.
I agree with your advice about using memory, what you see and writing prompts as well! Thank you for this great advice! Congratulations on your top story 🤩
I had this tab open to read this since you first posted it a few days ago and I’m so glad I finally got to it! Amazing work on this piece, LC. Your clarity is awesome. I can learn a lot from you on that. Thanks for the inspiration. I love your questions! 1) It depends on the day. Some days I get a lot of ideas for articles or stories, so I let myself start them all, then save draft and come back to the one that pulls at me the hardest. 2) Not much. I am a serial journaler since 2002. I probably write over half a million words a year, but only a few thousand of those end up getting seen by others usually. Working to change that. (Thanks Vocal!) 3) The Tesla Gambit was the first (non-poem) story I wrote on Vocal. I had no followers at the time so even though it placed in the Time Traveler Challenge, as a runner up and a bit of a longer read, not many have taken the time to read it. https://vocal.media/futurism/the-tesla-gambit I hope you find something in it you enjoy! Thanks for crafting such a thoughtful article, LC. And congrats on TS!
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thats really nice dude
Congratulations on your Top Story
This is awesome :D
From now on I'm telling everyone I am "a plant with opposable thumbs and notebooks."
I take on board everything you said. It all makes sense and is attainable. I get hit by ideas and pop them in keep notes. I prefer the challenges as an exercise, I can look blankly at the prompt for days and just as I'm about to leave it, something comes to me. Time management is my issue as this is not my only distraction. Thank you for your well laid out insights.
Superb. Congrats for top Story✍👌❤
Awesome read, L.C.! I’m going to try the tequila editing. Soon. And save the kittens!
That was awesome! I probably take too many breaks from writing and reading. Lately I’ve been better, but it’s so random. I’m about to start a demanding new job, so I may have to be more regimented about writing for fun 😂 When I am dry I hang out with a good friend and the stories just come out. One of my friends actually encouraged me to write this one down because I performed it for her in my living room. https://vocal.media/confessions/hot-girl-summer As for how many I don’t share. I have a handful of story fruits that died on the vine, but it’s all part of the process!
oh noooo the kittens! lol 1) Lately I've been doing short (10-15 min) writing sprints to try to get started again. Often, I write little snippets of backstory for my characters from other stories I've created and end up in strange places. 2) lol...I'm a rage delete person, sooooo maybe 5-15% see the light of day. 3) This has a content warning and is one of my longer ones so no pressure to read it, really. It is one of my personal favs though...it is also from before I had more than a couple regular readers so not many have seen it https://vocal.media/fiction/sigh-of-a-damned-soul Congrats on another great TS!
Great story excellently written and great advice.
"You're like a plant with opposable thumbs and notebooks" is possibly the best description of a writer that I've ever heard. 😄 This article is motivating, insightful, and full of fantastic (and accurate) advice. A well-deserved Top Story!
Okay, I will try to answer your queries: 1. I have too many old notebooks with too many old ideas to get dry. Also, all the prompting and the nonsense of life outside of writing helps. 2. As a percentage, I would say I am at 70 to 85% in my exposure. 3. I still think I revealed myself with this one (and it is fiction): https://vocal.media/fiction/the-nobel-prize-lecture And I liked your piece. Just write, my darlings, write, write, write! Great Top Story!
Well done top story, LC! You're killing it these days <3
Congratulations, LC! Well deserved!
Congratulations on your Top Story
When the ink isn’t flowing, I take it more slowly. I sit back, sip my coffee, and think about it. I try some new sentences, reread the previous work. Try to get back into the mindset to write. If that fails, I edit (blech I hate editing) or give up and read something else until I try again later. You might like my piece: https://vocal.media/journal/on-inspiration If you’ve been thinking about how writing works :)
This is great advice in a succinct and palatable package. It's also a beautiful piece of writing in its own right! I hope this shows up soon in the "Top Story" section.
L.C. I love the quote you used to start this article! It really drew me in and made me want to read more form you. I can really relate to this piece. I feel that sense of “brain oozing” goodness when I get to write or work on one of my projects. Overall this article really spoke to me and will stick with me for a while! Especially the explanations about how this (writing) is our enrichment! This really validates for me that my daily routine of working on at least one of my ongoing projects is there right way to go, especially in the spirit of improving mental health! I always feel bad because it feels like time away from my husband after work and its hard to explain to him why I need this, but I think I’m walking away with a better understanding of myself now! So thank you for this, LC! My answers to your questions: 1. I don’t find it too hard to get the ink flowing lately as I have 16 projects on the go and progress updates in my notes app. So I just pick one that I’m inspired to work on that day. If I don’t like any of them then I start something new. 2. Right now my guess on the percentage of my scribblings that I share is around 50%, but that’s due to some really great challenges lately. However, typically only 30% get shared as most of my scribblings are still a work in progress. 3. I feel like this one was pretty good and I wished it got more reads but I also think I over complicated it. Not mention its a bit long. https://vocal.media/fiction/begin-again-chapter-one
Some excellent pointers! Thank you