One of the hardest things to learn about writing is who you are and what YOU are best able to write. It’s not about trying to squeeze your story into anyone else’s box.
I tell you this because I spent years thinking I was supposed to write a certain way. And it kept me from writing what I was always meant to write.
And it’s keeping you from writing what you’re mean to write too.
Ever since college, I thought I was going to write the Great American Novel. (Yeah, it’s a thing.) I wanted to write the zeitgeist. Everyone in the industry, in my peer group, in the literary reviews and journals was telling me: You have to write a creative non-/fiction novel if you want to be a paid/well-known/famous author. It was the clear and obvious next step.
A couple years into college, I took a summer off to write my novel....
Attempt #2: Creative writing class my junior/senior year. We had to write a short story. Who knows now what the parameters were, or what the hell I wrote, but I remember using some kind of cliche like “almond-shaped eyes” (are you kidding me? unfortunately, no). Needless to say:
Attempt #3: Somewhere after college and between my work at a small weekly to a midsize daily newspaper, I had a book idea....
For the most part, I stopped trying to write a book after that.
Partly because I had a full-time job and bills to pay. But also because I thought it just wasn’t in me. That I wasn’t a writer after all. I still wrote a bit for my newspaper job, but overall, I transitioned from writing to editing.
I still had that dream to be a writer and to write a book, but it sat in the background. And, honestly, I was enjoying writing the blog/column for my newspaper's website. It was different, fun, and kept my writing skills sharp.
It wasn’t until years later that I learned why I wasn’t writing the Great American Novel (although, I won’t lie to you, I still think there might be something like that in me somewhere…I’m just not forcing it).
I was a poet.
I was meant to write short, poignant pieces (oh, and longwinded emails...). But that’s not all—I’m not a “narrative” poet and I’m not here to tell you about all the shit that happened to me while growing up. Because the truth is: I’ve had a really great life, with some ups and downs, just as with everyone else. But I was also ignoring the other aspect of my strengths and values as a writer:
My work was to comment on the world around me, not to focus on myself.
I tell you this because you’ve been lied to also.
You’ve been told, I’m sure, that you’re supposed to “tell your story.” Well, I’m here to call B.S.
Because the whole “storytelling” thing is a big. fat. fad.
Do not misunderstand me—storytelling has been around for centuries and I’m not saying it's going away. What I want you to understand is that the reason you’re hearing about it is because it is a trend in the literary world and then found a comfy home in the entrepreneur world (and boy, do they know how to run a buzzword into the ground). It’s been around a long time, and it will most likely be around a lot longer, but another buzzword and "genre-breaking" trend will take its place (just like memoir and “creative nonfiction,” though still around, aren't as popular they were about a decade or two ago).
Okay, before I go too deep into all that…
If you’re struggling to write, it might be because you’re writing what you think you’re supposed to write, and not what you’re meant to write.
I have a client who has an uncanny knack for being the “unseen” or “vanishing narrator" in her own story. (Think Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby.) This client's talent is being able to comment on the characters around her, and although she is a complex character herself (just as we all are, which is why we write and read books), her goal/aim is not to “tell her story”—and it would not do her writing justice to try to do so.
So if you’re struggling to make time to write, or if you’re not sure where to start, or you want to write but aren’t sure what to write about, start with yourself, but not with the idea that you are the hero of your story. (Sorry for the blow to your ego.)
Do you want to make time to write and make the most of your limited time for writing? Writing your book takes time, but it doesn't have to drag on for years. I'm holding my first-ever writing intensive in March in the Portland, Oregon, area to help you get started writing, find your focus, and work toward a finished draft.
And the only way to get invited is to be on my email list.
You'll get prompts, key insights into the writing process, special offers, and first dibs on my programs, products, or services.