During business writing courses, a question I typically ask is “who here accepted a job because you knew it required you to write?” Many chuckle and shake their heads – as if! – and occasionally two or fewer raise a hand – attorneys, public communication officers, and those in marketing usually. When collaborating on technical writing projects, I meet many competent and successful professionals who are insecure in their writing skills and uncomfortable with the act. When was the last time you wrote something – something other than an email, a to do list, or a social media post?
Here is why I ask…
A few days ago, a woman looked at a business check I handed her and asked about my work. That led to the most interesting conversation. It began in the arena of my current and her previous work, quickly shifted to writing as a practice, and ended where I learned the most about her – including how her father ran a Jeep repair shop in Puerto Rico and accepted chickens and goats from customers who had only these things to offer as payments. But it was what Gloriann said to me about when she writes that sparked the thoughts of this post.
“I write when I am angry” Gloriann said, as she pantomimed the motion of typing on a keyboard. She may not do anything with it afterwards, she told me, but the act of writing helps her to process what she is feeling. Allows her to work through her emotions and thoughts and come out the other side of the process feeling calm. And that got me thinking – about other people I know who write – or want to – and have shared with me why they do.
Lori, a long-time friend and professional peer, journals regularly – with a pen, in notebooks – on the musings of her life, career, relationships, goals – everything basically! Last I knew, she keeps them all and reads them periodically – she has since relocated and I don’t know the journals’ fate. (I will ask when I call her Monday morning – see my post on Habits, Routine, Ritual.) She finds solace in reading her own words. She gains perspective through them, sees patterns, sees progress, acknowledges choices, and learns about herself.
I also know a man who fights in writing – let me rephrase that – works out differences with his wife in notes and texts. They have described the process as one that affords them space, time to think, and keeps emotions in check. They can be precise in their thoughts and focus on their partner’s perspective instead of their response to a grievance that has been expressed.
Maria and Karen both have life stories they want others to benefit from that motivate their writing. Karen recently posted, in part: “I have to write. I want to write. Writing is fun! I am a good writer! Born to write. I just need the first sentence and the rest will flow.…Time to write.” My reply to her, in part, was: “Write the second sentence.” The beauty of writing as a practice is that you can begin anywhere. The first pages written to start my last book appear nowhere in it. But they got me started. I know what was on them, I know how they led me from blank pages to ten chapters. You just don’t need to read them because – frankly – they weren’t very good. Writing doesn’t need to be about others reading your words. Writing is about….writing!
Last summer, I became fast friends with Heather LeRoss. She was a vision in pink – literally – at a time that I was in a particularly dark place. The circumstances of our initial meeting resulted in an exchange that went deeply beyond cocktail party chatter – so deep that you may live with a person with whom you have not shared at this level. Heather is funny – correction, hysterical – intelligent, gifted as an author, and completely human. Not only does she write, she helps others to as well. In her first speaking engagement, she focused on “how to find more joy, stop negative beliefs, and be kinder to yourself through a regular writing practice.” Which is a lot to receive from something so easily accessible to everyone – including you.
As for me, besides when I am working, I mostly write when I am happy, when I need to organize my emotions, or – historically – when I have had more I wanted to tell a person than that person was apt to listen to. I also write about lessons I want to remember, events I want to avoid reliving, and my ambitions for my life. These writings are like conversations with myself.
So, again, I ask: When was the last time you wrote something? Why did you do it? Did you share it with anyone? And, if you don’t write, are you willing to try it – and share a few words with us on your experience with it?
As a child, Kimberly was late to begin speaking. Her siblings are quick to point out that she has been making up for lost time ever since. It is true, she loves words, feels fortunate that they are integral to her work, and hopes you will share a few of your own in response to posts on this blog.