Os Guinness once wrote, “A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any hope of fame or money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well.”
This resonates with me, because if there is one thing I’m passionate about, it’s writing. I know there’s no fame or money in it for me, and I know I don’t always do it well. But I still do it because I still love it.
It can be a frustrating endeavor. Take this week’s column. I didn’t start writing until a few hours before it was due, spending much of Wednesday morning staring at a blank document.
There were several topic ideas bouncing around my head, but I couldn’t wrangle and pin down any of them. Chasing my own thoughts can be like herding cats.
But that Guinness quote got me to reflecting on why I do what I do for a living. It’s certainly not the best time to be a writer, especially for a newspaper. My industry has been dying a slow, agonizing death for years, and I know it’s only a matter of time before the scythe collects me.
And if it does, I’ll have to find some other way to pay the bills. Hopefully it’s as a writer – it’s one of the few marketable skills I possess – but if not, I’ll keep writing anyway.
I do a good bit of writing outside of my job – short stories, poems. I’ve even taken a few runs at penning a novel, but it seems I don’t have the attention span for such a project.
I usually keep those writings to myself. Which brings me to the first rule of writing: Write for yourself.
Don’t write for the audience. Don’t write for your editor. Don’t write for the critics. Don’t write for anyone except you.
What that means is allow your voice to come through. Every writer has a voice, or a particular style, and if you mute or distort it in hopes a particular person or people will like your work, then it’s inauthentic. You’ve done a disservice to yourself and to the readers.
I’ve struggled with keeping this rule, because I’ve always worried too much about what people think. That’s due to some deeply imbedded insecurities, and there isn’t enough space to address those right now.
I often question the content of what I’m writing. Will people understand it? Will they mock it? Will it offend them?
I question the way I’m writing something. Is it too bold? Is it too raw? Is it too honest?
This struggle mainly arises when I know my writing will be read by others – in other words, what I write for the Daily Journal.
That’s why I love writing poetry so much. I can say whatever I want, however I want. Most of this poetry is dark, which will surprise absolutely none of you, I’m sure.
These are words I generally keep to myself. Sharing my poems with someone means I’m trusting them with a piece of my soul. It’s not something I’m keen to do.
I considered sharing a short poem here at the end of my column but, oh darn, looks like I’m out of room.
Maybe next time.