Sunday, August 4, 2013

Writing 101: What's I've learned in 101 Blog Posts

Last week I wrote a blog post without realizing it was the 100th blog post I had written on Confessions of a Travel Addict. Although I mentioned the big 100 when I posted it on Facebook, in no other way did I bring attention to it in the blog itself. I’ve been thinking about it some, however, and as much as I am not where I thought I would be when I first started the blog four years ago, I have nevertheless discovered many things, especially about writing. So, in honor of my 100 blog posts before this one, here are some things I’ve learned along the way.

Writing is hard, and not in the way I imagined.

Anyone who goes back and looks at some of my first blog posts and then reads some of my last ones will hopefully see what I mean by this. It is not that writing is hard as in sitting down and spilling words onto a page – although that’s not easy, either – it is that writing authentically is hard, sometimes so hard that I find I can’t do it. It is obviously not like this for everyone, but my need to show a vulnerable and introspective side of myself takes courage that I have to muster every time I sit down to write something I’m going to share, and courage again to share it. Writing is hard because, while the words come to me anyway, sharing them is a vulnerable act, and unlike what I always thought, being vulnerable is something I have to choose over and over again. I can’t just decide once that I’m going to do it and voila!, it’s done and easy forever.

Writing takes time.

I mean this in two ways. One, the actual act of writing out what is in one’s head takes time. This may sounds like a “well, duh” statement, but I have found that every time I put an end date or a deadline on my writing, I was killing the project before it started, because I could claim myself a failure for not finishing on time, even as I was trying to gather courage to keep going. The less reasons I have to berate myself the better; realizing that writing takes time is one of them.
The second part of that is realizing that there are many things that can only be learned through experience. When I say that writing takes time in that sense, I mean that I am a better writer today than I was a year ago; if I keep writing, I will be a better writer a year from now than I am today. I cannot rush or hurry this process; I can write every day, but it is the actual passage of time that lends itself to my improvement; time is not slipping away if I am writing, it is adding experience, emotion and credibility to what I have to say.

Not all writing is writing

I think a lot. Maybe more than most. I think a lot about writing. I think a lot about how I would write what I’m thinking or experiencing. And sometimes, I just can’t write or think anymore.
I’ve been stuck on my book, because I’ve been trying to gather courage. I’ve been stuck, and yet I think that it’s important to allow myself the rest before moving ahead. There is nothing more torturous to me than trying to force a solution that is not coming easily, and with artistic expression, forcing something like creativity can turn it into a ugly beast that looks nothing like it’s supposed to. I cannot write what I write with the idea that I must have it out in a certain amount of time; I cannot write with the idea that my life depends on my finishing it within a certain time period. Instead, I have to write remembering that it is being in the present moment with my words that means the most to me; that writing for a future outcome means nothing if all I’m ever focused on is the future.

Sometimes, silence is golden.

Sometimes, invisible audience, I’m really glad that you’re invisible. I have the ability to see the countries where my readers live; I know some of you who read my blog because you’ve told me, but there are others whom I have never heard from that keep the silence, and yet show up every week to see what else I have to say. While some part of me wonders at the lack of feedback, another part of me is glad, because it’s not always easy for me to write what I write here, and knowing that someone is listening and yet not trying to tell me how to change is a balm on a sometimes raw wound that I open to the air here, in the hopes of letting it heal.

Sometimes, feedback is wonderful.

On the other side of that coin, it helps me a lot to know that I’m not alone, and especially to know that I may say something that resonates with someone else. It helps me to know that I am not alone, and that perhaps what I have said has caused someone else to realize that they aren’t alone, either.

The answers are in the minute details.

If there is any single, large and overarching theme that I have learned from writing, it is that the answers come in the small moments. You cannot write a book in a night; you cannot become a best selling author if you lack the courage not just to publish something, but to sit down, day after day, and write like it doesn’t matter what happens to your book. Fighting the fear and the demons is not about one long, drawn out battle with your unconscious fears. It is about getting up every day and taking the smallest steps to combat them: giving yourself 15 minutes to write; giving yourself an hour to run; feeding yourself well and surrounding yourself with people who will cheer you on, not because they are excited about the end product, but because they recognize the beauty, the depth and the relief in the process. It is turning off the idea that writing is a machine that must be fed words daily, and realizing that even if words spill onto the page at the same time every day, the real depth is in the joy felt in holding the pen; in looking up at life from behind the keyboard and knowing, beyond a doubt, that the ability to paint a picture of that world with even a few words is a gift all in itself.
It is knowing that Rome was not built in a day, and that a mountain of sand can be constructed one grain at a time. For me, building that mountain seems to have become the important part, not necessarily what I will see at the top.

Love and learning-along-the-way kisses,