What’s a writer who never writes?
That’s the questions I’ve been asking myself repeatedly over the past few months while I’ve been searching for any inspiration whatsoever to write.
The answer, of course, is…well…not a writer.
I’ve been seeking out the advice of published writers from different aspects of the written world–journalists, communications professionals, authors–and when I ask them for advice, they all tell me the same things I heard on my first day as an English grad school student. If you want to be a writer, you only have to do two things to improve as a writer: read and write.
For about a two year stretch, I published multiple pieces per week on various web outlets. Some of those pieces received thousands of page views, some hundreds, some next to nothing. But the sensation of seeing my name on the author line, or being able to tweet out a link to something I WROTE to people was a high I never really experienced before. It was tangible. Over the past year I’ve worked hard on a few pieces that still haven’t seen the light of day. And even though I know how hard I’ve worked on them and how good they could potentially be, they aren’t tangible. The world can’t see them. And that’s where the doubt begins to set in.
People write for a lot of different reasons.
One of the most popular reasons is catharsis. Writers internalize a lot of emotions and for some, writing is a way to purge themselves of negative emotions. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but many times a writer tries to write about something personal in the hopes that it could have a positive effect on a reader maybe going through the same emotions. I’m guilty of this sometimes. Sometimes getting the thoughts and feelings out on paper helps, even if no one ever sees it. You’ve purged yourself of that feeling or that event and it’s gone.
Another reason is because you genuinely have something to say. I read tremendous music and art critics who legitimately help me view that specific piece of art and the culture at large in another light. They have productive ways of breaking down what we take in every single day and they’re doing their best to help the rest of us digest it. I wrote a lot of sports articles over the past few years where I also felt that way, like I had an opinion that could slice through a lot of the noise that permeated the sports media, the bland, ridiculous takes that lack any semblance of nuance and analysis that I didn’t value whatsoever. So I wrote and wrote and published until I felt like I ran out of things to say.
That’s kind of where I’ve been the past year or so. Searching for the right topic to pitch, finishing a creative project I abandoned, hopelessly looking for something to say, something that will not only make sense, but maybe it will have a positive effect on someone. Maybe it will provide inspiration to someone else. Maybe it will just help me get the ball rolling.
They told me I needed to read and write if I wanted to be a writer. I do plenty of reading. Let’s get writing.