In recent years, I have been advocating to anyone I come across, that they should write. Not only should they write, they should publish their writing online for the purpose of sharing it openly with as many people as possible.
“Nobody would read what I write,” was the most typical reaction I would get, followed by various forms of, “My writing is so bad”. Some people don’t feel as self-conscious about the quality of writing, instead they are plagued by other reasons: “I am never inspired enough to write”, or “I have no time to write”.
The good news is that, I get these reactions even from the gifted writers I know. The writing paralysis afflicts everybody, not only normals like you and me.
Debunking the reasons not to write
1. “Nobody would read what I write”
First and foremost, the most important audience you should consider is yourself:
“Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”— Kurt Vonnegut
The biggest benefit of writing, is that it allows you to store and organize your feelings, thoughts and ideas in a coherent manner as opposed to keeping them all jumbled in your own mind. There is a reason why the best creative people carry a notebook everywhere they go. If you are really not willing to share your writing publicly, the very least you can do is to write for yourself, whether you prefer to carry physical notebooks or type in digital journals.
It does not matter if nobody reads your writing. The point of writing is self-expression — gathering an audience should be secondary. You cannot connect to other people without connecting first to yourself.
“You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.” — Stephen King
2. “My writing is so bad”
My friend Ailian, who co-incidentally is also one of my personal favorite bloggers, noted that even marketing extraordinaire Seth Godin was not so good at writing once upon a time. He took roughly half a decade to get to where he is today and that is taking into account the high frequency of him publishing his writing.
Apart from the writing geniuses that forms less than 1% of the total human population, I am pretty certain all good writing starts from bad writing. In fact, if you read biographies of well-known writers like Stephen King or Haruki Murakami, one persistent theme is that great writing only comes through endless, repetitive iteration. That first draft has to exist first.
“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere” —Anne Lamott
In any case, so what if the writing is bad? Ultimately what truly matters is that you are writing something that matters to you, in your very own voice, that expresses your thoughts as an unique individual. There is no one else who can be you and write as you.
3. “I am never inspired enough to write”
It is a common fallacy that we have to wait for inspiration before we start writing:
“If you wait for inspiration to write; you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.”
— Dan Poynter
Granted there are moments of inspiration that sweep you away and let you pour your soul instinctively into your writing, but those moments are few and far in between. It is important to trust the process, that once you begin to write, the story will unfold by itself.
“You can’t think yourself out of a writing block; you have to write yourself out of a thinking block.” — John Rogers
That is still missing the point, writing should not be an act of inspiration, but again, an act of self-expression. Wanting to write when you are inspired is almost equivalent to stating that you will only speak when you are inspired.
4. “I have no time to write”
I think most of us have trouble prioritizing time. Often we do not understand that in life we need to be able to carefully weigh tradeoffs. If writing enables us to be more conscious, thoughtful and creative, why are we not deliberately making time to write? Why is it not a priority?
Making time to write is making time to connect with yourself. With the exception of meditation, try thinking of a better way to connect to yourself. Writing in itself is a form of meditation. You start putting some thoughts out there and you become acutely aware of who you really are and what you really think.
There is a certain mysterious quality of writing that encourages your authentic self to show up.
The real power behind writing
If you have read this far and are willing to remotely consider putting aside all of those self-induced neuroses to start writing, you may ask, why should I write for anyone beyond myself?
Therein lies my stubborn belief — writing empowers the greater good.
When you write and share your writing, you are putting a piece of yourself out there; it is an opportunity for an asynchronous connection between you and a virtual stranger. When you write about your fears, you are letting someone know that they are not alone facing those fears. When you write about overcoming difficult obstacles, you are giving some hope to someone out there that it is possible to do the same for themselves. When you write about your victories, you are making an example out of yourself — hey let’s aim for the stars, they are possible to reach sometimes.
You are honoring yourself and your experiences. What could be better than to chronicle them somewhere and sharing them with the world?
Can you think of a better way to share your thoughts and ideas with the world in a more accessible manner? A piece of writing may take some investment to create, but once it is published, it may live on for the rest of time. How much have we learned in the history of humanity, simply because someone made the deliberate choice to write?
Do not trivialize or underestimate your acquired experiences and knowledge. What you think is trivial may make someone’s day. What you assume as common knowledge may be the exact information that someone else is trying to find. It may even change someone’s life. You could unwittingly inspire someone to make a change.
Try taking the first step, it is always the hardest to start. Try writing words that will turn into sentences forming paragraphs, which will become the very basis of a story which you may not even know exist within yourself.
You may discover through writing, the stories of your life could be vastly different from what you have remembered in your head; that it would inevitably take on a life on its own once it is written and shared.
Have you ever come across a piece of writing that resonated so much for you that it set a different tone for your day or dramatically altered the course of your destiny?
You could be the author of that piece of writing for someone else. And that to me, is the power of writing.
This is originally published on Medium.