Thursday, November 3, 2016

Writing Advice from an Amateur

I've been meaning to talk about writing for a long time. Mostly, that I can't write. Words, motivation, and joy have all been absent. I've been learning that despite all the motivational quotes on Pinterest about how you should never stop writing, it is okay to stop writing sometimes. 

It's better to stop than to risk harming yourself or others through accumulating unnecessary pressure, stress, and pain. Taking a break, no matter how long, is not the same as quitting.

If you read my 
last blog post, you'll know that while I don't regret signing as a young author, there are a lot of things about writing professionally as a teen that I am questioning and rethinking. This semester, I've been taking a literature course and I've had the opportunity to read numerous short stories written by some of time's greatest authors. The most valuable thing I've learned from these stories is that you can be creative and successful both at the same time. 

Until recently, a great deal of the writing instruction I've received has encouraged only one right way of making a story. There's nothing wrong with plots and climax pyramids. There's nothing wrong with "showing" instead of "telling," or writing in first person present tense, or eliminating exclamation points because that's what the editors like these days. 

"Here was life, not fiction; for where were the plots, the old fashioned mechanism and stage trapping that in a vague, unthinking way I had fancied were essential to the art of story making? Here was a man who had escaped from traditional authority, who had his own eyes; and who, in a direct and simple way, told us what he saw. When a man does this, he gives us the best that he can; something valuable for it is genuine and spontaneous. He gives us his impressions." 
Kate Chopin, How I Stumbled upon Maupassant  

But do understand this: writing is about creativity. Writing is about having a free spirit, it's painting with words and creating stories that make the world stop spinning. Some of the best and most brilliant works have been created at the fingers of artists who never heard of a climax pyramid. Some of the best stories ever written have been left without the trace of a climax or have had numerous climaxes, and they've been beautiful. They've been beautiful and they've been successful because they've been created by a person and a mind that is strictly unique and valiantly brilliant. 

Writing trends are always going to change. Stories that are wildly successful right now for their strict adherence to the "laws" of words may be forgotten in years to come. But if you can create a story that solely belongs to you, one where every element was arranged and created in your mind and at your fingertips, it won't be something easily forgotten. It will change your life, and it may change others.

“Marked individuality” is a term L.M. Montgomery uses in her books sometimes, and I feel like this is a really lovely way to view writing. Something that’s all your own, belongs completely to you, and was breathed right out of your own soul--something no one else can create, only you. That may be why I love writing so much: I love having something unique that belongs wholly and completely to me. I think God felt this way when He created us, and why He loves so much when we belong to Him.

Writing is a really difficult profession because writers are the voice of the world. People who write have been the catalysts behind some of the world’s biggest, most historical movements and events. Journalists, novelists, short story and article authors quite literally change the direction of the world. A writer’s voice can call out from one continent and be heard in another. They can speak in one millennium and be heard in another. Their mark is powerful and their words have the potential to exist forever.

I don’t want to say this makes us targets necessarily, it doesn’t. But it does give us an incredible responsibility that is consciously or unconsciously recognized by everyone around us, and everyone who influences us. 

I love people who talk to me about my writing, I really, really do. I love people who give me suggestions and criteria and ideas and I love when the people I love are fingerprinted into my stories. But there’s this thing that’s been bugging me lately. I feel pressured. I feel so, so pressured—mostly by strangers or acquaintances and friends I haven’t known very long. I feel this burden setting in from people who love me and mean well. 

And this is what I’m learning: that this pressure is required in order to be a storyteller. Writers speak for the world, and so, they carry it too. We speak for people who can’t write, or who don’t have a platform. We speak for the creatively deaf and for the people who hurt too much to hone their own voice, or the people who aren’t brave enough to speak yet. We speak for the people who are too busy for writing and the people who can’t afford to do it as their career. 

And, the world notices. 

I think for some people, it’s an unconscious reaction. Depending on where I am, I like to keep my writing career pretty quiet. When people find out I write, they automatically start overwhelming me with their thoughts and opinions, and their most brilliant ideas that would really change the world, if only they could put them on a platform. They tell me how to write, they tell me what opinions to have and how I should express them, they tell me what to think and how to think. They don’t do it consciously, it just happens. They see me as a platform and an outlet.

It’s exhausting.

It’s beautiful, it’s a great privilege, and an incredible responsibility. It requires thought, time, and philosophy, because I am speaking for the people who can’t be heard, and gosh I adore those people. I've dedicated my life to them.

But sometimes, when you’re a writer… there are voice you have to tone down. There are voices and people you have to stop hearing, because ultimately your writing is yours. It’s your "marked individuality," it’s your molded creation, and as much as you would love to, you can’t let everyone else shove their agendas into your stories. You decide your own agendas. You have to write your own stories. You have to be you, create what is yours, free of other’s writing rules, ideas, brilliant epiphany’s, and their opinions. Writing is freedom and it requires freedom and free spirits.  

Love people, listen to and understand their ideas, but don’t let someone else write their story through you. In the end, you be brave enough to make the choices. Write all that you know and feel and desire. Allow the freedom and creativity that is writing to flow through you, and let it be you only when it counts. Ultimately, don’t look to others to tell you what is great writing. You determine what is greatness to you, and you create from that.   



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  2. Stephanie, I'm proud of you! This is really beautiful. I learn so much from you and our friendship ❤

    1. Aw, you are the greatest. I am so thankful for you, and so, so glad we became friends. <3 Love you!