Writing 101: This is You

To all my beautiful people,

A song brought this article on. A song that I think every writer needs to take to heart. And so I’ll leave it here for you.

I always say I’m going to blog more often. I set goals for myself for bi-weekly, once a month, and it generally just happens once in a blue moon when I’m feeling like saying something important to an audience outside myself.

I also realized currently that perhaps I blog out of a fear. I think I fear that I won’t have readers that care about my work or a platform to work off of if I ever tried to publish something. I think I also have a fear of becoming irrelevant in this world–that what I say in these articles, in the pages of my writing, may only have meaning to me.

Perhaps I’m right. Perhaps I’m not. I’m not really searching out validation of either idea right now. I think perhaps I am searching for something within myself–something that is more steadfast than the simple fleeting inspirations that come and go. I’m searching for that part of myself that used to live and breathe writing, that was incomplete without it. Because I know it’s there inside me, but there are a lot of fears and inadequacies that cover it up.

These are the things I’ve been thinking about in this new year. And I think that perhaps there are others that face these same thoughts as well. Perhaps. If not, maybe I’m the only one. But at least in having written what I am going to write today the words will be in the open for those who need them now and in the future.

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Not to be a bore, but I decided to do my taxes today. Yeah, and then I had a panic attack when I realized my printer was out of paper and I had none in this house with which to print what I needed. And of course the weather chose this morning to have a meltdown, literally speaking, and snow freaking eight inches so it’s not really safe to go anywhere. Thus, I had a panic attack and nothing went right this morning.

But in studying the numbers, I realized something. Everything in my life seems like a circle. I work hard to get an education so that I’ll be able to make enough money to survive. But when I work hard, I barely make enough money to keep myself educated and without that education I can’t get a “real job” that will help me to make the money that I need to because apparently, a Masters degree is taking the place of the high school diploma in a lot of arts circles. But oh well.

And the more I think on this, the more I think on writing. Specifically my writing, but also others. I watch myself go in circles. I hit sprees where I think I can write anything and I think what I write will be great. Then I hit this end about thirty days in where everything I write sucks. By the time I actually finish, I’m convinced that I’m an awful writer, and often when I send stories out for feedback to get an idea of what to change for the next draft, those people’s points of view often confirm my feelings.

And so the cycle continues that I see my favorite authors continually putting out incredible works of art, and I devour them. I breathe them in like air, and I tell myself that I wish I could create something this wonderful–yet in the same breath I stand there and tell myself there is no way I could ever create something like this.

Some days I pull myself out of that rut telling myself that if I never write then I’ll never get better. But at some point, I think I have to realize–that all artists have to realize–an important point.

We don’t always get better.

There. I said it. Wrote it. Whatever. Sometimes, we just are. Sometimes the writing is what it is.

Sometimes it doesn’t get better and we just have to accept that what is created is there and it exists and we have to work with it however we can or decide that it needs the ax.

More often than not, it turns out to be the latter for me, and so I don’t finish things. I just create and create and create and burn myself out thinking that everything I create will never be enough.

And maybe it won’t be. Not for me. Not for you. Not for ourselves.

But maybe that’s not the point.

Maybe the entire point of creating is so much bigger than that. Maybe the point of what we create is that it’s not for us. It doesn’t have to be enough for me. It doesn’t have to be everything I imagined. It just has to be enough for one person–even if I never know who that one person was or will be.

Creating is a social art. It’s not for the creator so much as for the audience. We, as writers, come unglued on the page–because beneath the guise of fiction it’s so much easier to speak truths than it is to reach out to the people around us. There’s less judgment on the page than off of it.

Writing is a conduit. Good writing is raw and ageless because it exposes the heart of the writer. It reaches out to its audience, screaming and clawing and shouting: “I’m here. I understand. I’ve been where you are.” Good books are the ones that make the reader have to shut them because something hurts inside–in that secret place where you and the author have become one.

And this is the truth of the matter: We become stuck in writing not because we aren’t good enough, but because we aren’t honest enough.

There is a fear in putting your raw, ugly, sadistic self upon the page for someone else to read. Even under the guise of fiction. Because once you’ve put yourself out there, there’s no taking it back. There’s only pushing forward and covering up again. Pretending that those ugly, cruel parts of yourself aren’t there. Pretending that those wounds and betrayals don’t matter. Everything you uncovered has to be buried again and tended to so discreetly.

Writing is a painful thing for the good writers. And so I sit here writing to you and thinking for myself on what I truly want.  Do I want to be someone who writes pretty prose and fiddles with stories that are never quite good enough? Do I want to be a raw and open, undefeatable, and confident writer who pours themselves out on the page? Do I want to be a good writer, or do I want to be a great writer?

And the truth of that matter is that sometimes I don’t know what I want. Sometimes it’s both, sometimes it’s neither. Sometimes I want to be honest with the world, and sometimes I’m too afraid of how that honesty will be received to step out beyond myself.

Sometimes I’m too afraid to step past what I know and into what I feel. Becuase I’ve studied writing for years. I have several degrees in it, and I’m still studying it. I will probably always study it. But at some point I have to step past what I know, step past the ideas of craft and theory. And I have to let writing be art, let writing be truth, let writing be someone else’s light in the dark channels that I’ve already swum.

That’s such a hard thing to do. But it’s such a selfish thing not to do. And even while I’m writing this, I realize that it’s probably something that I’m not brave enough of a person to do myself, though I wish that wasn’t so.

But here is my question for you, fellow writer: Are you brave enough to let your writing be bigger than just a story? Are you brave enough to let your writing come from within yourself? Or will you be another author who is eventually just forgotten by time?

Time passes us all by at some point, I think. Time loses each of us in some way. But some of us withstand that–because a reader saw something in our pages that they didn’t see somewhere else. Your story can be the one that sits on their shelf, the pages turned until the spine cracks, coffee spots on the edges, tarnished cover, read again and again and again because it’s so beloved.

You may not be that for the world. But you don’t have to be. You just have to be that for one person. And sometimes, that one person may just be you.

Sometimes you have to be brave enough to say “I WILL write this because I NEED to write it.” I will say these things because they need said. I will write these truths because they need voiced. I will, I will, I will.

And sometimes, just that willingness is enough.

I’m not asking you to be more than you are. We can never ask that of ourselves. We can only be who and what we were meant to be and hope that the world will one day accept that, even if we cannot.

All I ask of you is this: Be a writer who you can be proud of.

Don’t be a perfect writer. Don’t be a writer with only beautiful prose, or intricate plots. Don’t be a writer who is just concerned with having the most beloved characters.

Be a writer who is true to themselves. Be a writer who spills their blood and guts and heart upon every page. Because that is why you write–beneath the enjoyment of writing, beneath the hope for acceptance, we write simply to understand and be understood. We write to uncover the world and to uncover ourselves.

And only by writing the truth for and of yourself will you accomplish your true potential.

You’re right. It’s not as easy as I make it sound. It’s late nights and early mornings. It’s stress and tearing things out and trying to hide them again. It’s tears and anger and hurt and reliving things you don’t want to think about.

But it’s truth. And it’s you. And the mask that you wear with your happy endings and your lovely couples will never be enough for you or for the world. The truth is all that will ever be enough.

It’s like Sam and Frodo in Lord of the Rings. We are so often like Frodo, we think we can’t do this, that we can’t be enough. But Sam is there, always to prove us wrong–even if Sam is just a little voice inside you that whispers “I can do this.”

When your Inner-Frodo says, “I can’t do this.”

Sam says, “I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened. But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass.
A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.”

And your Inner-Frodo asks, “What are we holding onto, Sam?” And Sam is always there to remind you of that light, of the good in the world, of the good in you. And he says, “There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”

There’s good in you. Even with all that darkness that you tear out of your own soul to write the truths you need to write, to show people what’s really underneath…you aren’t exposing just your darkness and your hurts and your understanding of this big, bad, dark, ugly world. You’re exposing the good in the world, the good in you, the things that are worth fighting for–because those are truths, too. And even if you don’t see them when you start, or even when you finish, there is someone who will reach underneath of your story and see those truths for you–even if you never know who they are.

You may never trek up mountains or face hordes of creatures to deliver the world from evil. But You do in your writing. You trek up mountains that are really all the obstacles in your life, you face hordes of orcs that are really just all the people that stand against you and push you back and hurt you. You do all those things every time you sit down to write what really needs writing.

You DO deliver the world from evil–and you do it one truth at a time.

That truth, whether good or bad, beautiful or ugly. That truth, the whole truth, and nothing but that truth will set the world free.

But first, you have to go and write it.

It won’t be enough–not until you do.

So go on already. Stop reading and get busy.


Until next time.

Your unaffectionate supernova,

CS Taylor

A song brought this article on. A song that I think every writer needs to take to heart. And so I’ll leave it here for you.

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