Writing Should Be An Act Of Joy
Writing is a lonely, solitary craft. We labor over every sentence, every word as we fine tune the perfect tone, and balance the right message.
Some of us are morning creatives, others night owls. But all of us, I dare say, do our best work alone. At least initially. How many times have I been at work fine tuning a thought when someone comes in the room and starts talking to me, only to see my thoughts disappear into vapor, gone forever? At some point you have to share your work, solicit feedback and input, perhaps. But, initially the words come from you.
Writing advice abounds. If you Google the phrase “best writing advice” you will get about 1,270,000,000 replies. Some of the advice is flip: “Write drunk, edit sober,” while other advice is more on point.
Ernest Hemingway famously said, “Write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.”
Ray Bradbury pointed out that if writing isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong.
The one piece of advice that I always give my creative writing students I took from Stephen King, who in his book On Writing, says that you can’t write if you don’t read. I never understood why a student that does not like to read wants to write in the first place, but there they are, in my class, every semester. Perhaps they thought it might be an easy elective.
I once met the great Ernest Gaines and his advice was simple: “Read, read, read, write, write, write, read, read, read.”
Ultimately every writer develops his or her own style, but we all have writers that we prefer to read, if not just for subject matter, then also for style and tone.
For me, there may not be a writer I would love to emulate more than E.B. White. I have spent literally decades reading his essays and letters. They are stylistically, pure, and beautiful.
Mr. White had plenty of advice for writers and perhaps one of his most famous was his letter to a young writer in which he said, “If you like to write and want to write, you write, no matter where you are, or what else you are doing, or whether anyone pays any heed.”
It seems to me that writing is a passion; it should be fun, as Bradbury says, and it should never be a chore. If it isn’t fun, what is the point? It leads to the question, are you writing for your audience or for yourself? You must always consider your audience, of course, but you are not writing for them. You write for you. You write because you have something to say, because you love that pure, lovely sentence.
Obviously there are different types of writing; I feel like I need to concede that point. Journalistic writing is a bit different; if we write because it brings us joy and it is fun, one would be hard pressed to put that philosophy to work writing an obituary or a tragic news story.
It goes back to the question — why do you write? What makes you pick up that pen or open that document? I’m talking primarily about creative writing, but this holds true for journalistic writing in some degree. The Pulitzer Prize for Journalism has been given to some very fine writers who have written beautiful prose.
You write because it brings joy. And if what you’ve written brings you joy, it will bring joy, or at least satisfaction, to someone else as well.