In school, when I was stuck on how to get started on a piece of writing or I had no idea what to write, one of my teachers said to just keep writing the words, I don’t know, until something comes. The important part of these ‘free write’ exercises, was to continue writing no matter what–pencil or pen to the paper at all times! Not as one big continual scrawl of course, but you know what I mean. I will admit that at first, I thought my teacher was off of her rocker. How is writing, I don’t know, over and over again going to help? But you know what? It worked. Any time there was a gap in my thought, I just wrote those three little words to maintain momentum and eventually I would come up with something, albeit it wasn’t always the greatest. After completing a number of free writes in her class that year, I found that I no longer needed the words, I don’t know. I assumed that that was the goal–to reach a point where you could just continue writing on a topic without needing a crutch. While all writers experience writer’s block and such, my teacher taught me that there is always something that can come from it if you really push yourself to stick with it. In other words, perseverance pays off, something that we are all having to learn now more than ever in these trying COVID-19 times.
I think one of the reasons that I enjoy the daily writing prompts so much is honestly because of my English teacher all of those years ago now. I came to enjoy the challenge of having a random topic or word and needing to search my brain for references and information that would be relatable to others; nowadays, Google is also helpful. One of the other great lessons I received (not sure if it was from the same teacher?!) was that some of the best writing comes from our own personal experiences versus trying to invent details that have no meaning or connection for you, which will undoubtedly translate to your reader. Obviously, in fictional genres such as fantasy, the goal is to really stretch one’s imagination, but even then it is likely that some of the characters and/or plot line originated from one experience or another that the author had or dreamed about or watched, etc.
Today, I admittedly had ideas of what to write about, but as is often the case, I hadn’t decided on any one specific thing until I sat down and began typing. Out of all of the things that I thought that I could write about for the word, free, this idea wasn’t one of them, yet here it is. To me, that is the beauty of writing– you never know exactly where it’s going to take you, even though you are the one who is creating it. It’s an adventure of sorts, much like avid readers claim about their latest book. You delve into it and the elusive ending is the best part. Sure, you might have an idea of where your piece is going (the ‘end in mind’ concept) or what you wish to achieve out of it, but I personally find that my final result is often very different from what I might have originally pictured. Some of my writing turns out better than I could have hoped for and some of it is just mediocre, kind of like this piece, but I am okay with that. As long as I remain true to myself, and keep writing as my teacher said, I will continue to perfect a craft that I happen to love. The fun is in the trying, as should be the case with most things since life is all about the journey.
The extra special part about writing something versus reading something is that you are literally creating something that did not previously exist in the world. I’m sure it’s similar to how artists feel about one of their paintings or drawings or carvings (Lou Carreras). While you might see multiple books on skateboarding or paintings of daisies for example, no two are exactly alike because their authenticity lies in the creator of each. Every day, all of us have the power to create new experiences for ourselves, to then be able to write about them or capture them using various media, and have others relate, is like the proverbial icing on the cake.
The lesson that my teacher was attempting to instill in us young folks really went beyond how to become better writers, didn’t it? What she really taught us is that giving up on something is essentially the same as giving up on ourselves. It does not serve us to throw our hands up in the air and say, “I can’t do it,” because you can. If you really, really set your mind to something, you can achieve it. Yes, it takes time and commitment, but that’s how you become successful, failures along the way and all. True success, real success is earned, not simply given.
This piece is dedicated to my junior high teacher and her crazy notion that three little words, I don’t know, could help to make me a better writer and ultimately… a better person. Cheers and special thanks to her wherever she may be! :-).