You hear that?
That’s the sound of you being an awesome writer.
Wait… what’s that? You can’t hear it right now? Too bogged down in self-doubt and misery? Don’t think your writing matters?
That’s okay. I hear you. I used to think my writing didn’t matter either. I used to think that my rough drafts had to be perfect before they were put to the page. I used to think that I wasn’t ever going to improve.
But I was wrong. And today, on this Writing Wednesday, I’m here to tell you five reasons why.
1. You’ll improve your writing skills.
Every time you put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, or microphone to word processor (if you’re using dictation software), you’re slowly but surely improving your writing skills. Every time you write an email to a coworker, a letter to your siblings, a scene in the novel that you’re writing, you perform and practice the act of writing at the same time. If you go into the writing session with a specific skill that you want to improve, even better. You’ll know exactly what to work on so that you’re not repeating bad habits.
Even sitting down at the chair and writing nothing at all during a session will improve your writing skills.
Read that sentence again. Just by showing up, you tell yourself that not only does your writing matter, but you matter. As you write — as you practice anything, really, the pathways in your brain that help you write become more efficient.
2. You’ll gain more self-confidence.
Every time you write, you’ll gain more self-confidence, be less afraid to write, and less worried during the times you can’t. You might be more likely to make mistakes and typos, but those mistakes and typos won’t stop you from starting or continuing. You’ll have the comfort of knowing that you can go back and revise.
More importantly, with increased self-confidence, you guessed it — you’ll be writing even more. And if you end up hating writing, no biggie. At least you gave it the full shot.
3. You’ll learn how to generate better ideas.
Especially during free-writing or having a daily/weekly prompt, every time you write not only helps you develop your writing skills. It also helps you generate better ideas.
Yes, some of the ideas you generate the first time around will be bad. They will be terrible and awful and you wish you hadn’t written them. But beneath every bad seed is the opportunity to make it blossom down the line. That angry squid you wrote in one chapter might not fit in the current scene you have, but it’s possible it could fit somewhere else. And instead of immediately rejecting a bad idea, you’ll learn how to replace it with a better idea or make the first idea even better.
Which brings me to my next point:
4. You’ll have leftover materials for current/later works.
I used to think that every time that I wrote a new draft of a story that I had to throw out the previous draft and start over completely which, now that I really think about it, was a pretty hard existence to live in. Again, going back to the “it-has-to-be-perfect mentality,” I used to think that rough drafts were untouchable. After all, the story in the rough draft wasn’t going anywhere, so what was the use of me using the draft?
Boy, was I wrong!
I can’t tell you how happy I am to be in the middle of writing a novel and freeing myself to use materials I’d written in my previous drafts. It’s been saving me loads of time, and it’s been incredibly fun.
Had I not saved those old drafts, I would have been in a world of pain.
Having those old drafts is also evidence of something greater.
5. You’ll be a do-er instead of just a dreamer.
Every time you write, you make your mark on the world. Whether you show your writing or not, your hard drive will contain evidence of your existence through your writing. Your journals will be filled to the brim with your thoughts and feelings.
But by doing nothing, you don’t gather that mountain of evidence that proves that you were here, creating your art and being yourself. Instead of being someone who did something, you’ll be someone who dreamed something.
Don’t get me wrong. Dreams are powerful. But without any action, they stay in the realm of fantasy and non-existence. Everything you ever write says, in the manner of Korra in The Legend of Korra, “I’m a writer, and you gotta deal with it!”
A Thought Before You Go
After you finish reading this post, I’d like you to do something a little scary. Also, going to give credit to Austin Kleon for this idea in his pretty nice book called Show Your Work. If you don’t want to do this mini-exercise, that’s cool. You can do a different exercise that has the same principle. But for those of you who are willing, I’d like you to do the following:
I want you to imagine me at your funeral. All your friends and relatives are gathered round during your funeral service. And me, I’m just a complete stranger passing by, but I happen to catch whoever is giving your eulogy, and I stop in my tracks to hear more about you. What do I hear in that eulogy? What would you want me to hear in that eulogy that makes me think, “Wow, that person sounds like they had an amazing life”?
Different scenario, same principle: Perhaps I’m in a coffee shop, and I pick up a local newspaper, and I read about you in the obituary. What do you want that obituary to say? What would you want me to read about your life and achievements?
Do you want to be known as a published author? A Pulitzer winner? A two-time Hugo and Nebula award winner? A multi-talented musician/author/painter/whatever? Do you want to be known as a do-er who got things done and left a legacy behind, or as a dreamer that only though about writing instead of actually doing it?
For the brave of heart, try writing your own obituary or eulogy. For the less brave (like me), just think about some of the things you want to be remembered for. And be serious with it. We all get one life on this earth, as far as I know, and that means there are no do-overs. Even if you don’t manage to publish your writing or become a famous author, at least you will still have evidence of you having written something and done something.
And as always, see you next post!