What Really Helps Me Write
I’ve been writing since high school. More accurately, I’ve been learning how to write since high school.
The editor of The Woman’s Comfort Book, my first book published in 1992 that went on to sell 350,000 copies and is still in print, told me a few years ago, “You know you really weren’t a good writer when you wrote that book.”
She was right.
I could have let my struggle to write stop me.
I could have believed, “Writing should be easier for me, I must not really be a writer.”
I almost did. Many times.
Instead, I kept getting curious — why is writing so hard for so many of us?
And does it have to be?
Spoiler alert: I don’t think it does.
Here’s some of what I’ve learned, the ideas I use every time I write:
The blank page is not a problem. The problem is coming to the blank page without inventory, without pre-dreaming, without energy. Priming your creative pump, even a little, changes the blank page into an invitation to play.*
Every time you lower the stakes and make writing feel safer, smaller, less scary, your brain makes it easier for you to write. Big goals and big dreams make it much harder.
Know why you are writing. What’s your point? Why do you care? That may mean writing to figure out what you want to say and why–great!
Owning your point and owning your why means letting yourself be seen. Readers want to connect.
Forget transitions, writing in order, and please, forget about beautiful writing. Write rough in chunks. Write rough to make your point, to connect, to bring your ideas or character to life. Write rough for clarity. Then find the flow and the beauty.
Nobody writes better when they’re cruel to themselves. It’s neurobiologically impossible.
Systems matter. Organize your work and research in a way that works for your brain. Take your words and ideas seriously.
A good system does not mean you have to read every journal, post-it note, back of the receipt scrawled note to self you have ever written and preserve them in amber. Trust yourself to write a first draft from what you remember now. You can then go back and find what you need later–and much faster.
Structure is the missing piece for most writers. All those bits and pieces you have written in your notebooks and on writing retreats need help becoming something that connects with a reader.
Learn to relax in the gap between what you want to write and what you actually write, and then, keep on writing.
Writing “success” is rarely about talent. What matters is are you willing to take your writing desires to heart? To tend to them? To be brave? And are you willing to learn?
Writing can be hard but it doesn’t always have to be. We have gotten very invested in the struggle. What if we dared to imagine it can be easier, more fluid, more fun?
I could keep going, and I will, in Write Now, my brand new writing program. I’m putting everything I know about making writing easier into one amazing program. Combined with a meticulously designed introvert-friendly accountability and group uplift, plus two virtual writing retreats, it’s going to be one of the best things I’ve ever made.