Write Like Nobody’s Reading
Every morning, when I wake up, the first thing I do is write a full page in my notebook. Pen and paper. The blue light of a screen is nowhere to be found in that golden hour, as the morning sun filters through my blinds.
It works out at around two hundred words. Not much. I just write. Flowing straight from my mind to the paper. Raw. I don’t edit it, I don’t pause to correct myself. It’s easy.
There’s always something to write, whether it is a to-do list for the day, thoughts on things that happened and the way I responded, tiny stories, total nonsense. You’d find a little bit of everything if you ever read it. But you won’t. I never show it to anyone.
It’s not the pen and the paper that make the words flow so easily. The physical action of writing is encouraging, but it’s not why the words become pages of ideas and life.
It’s knowing that there is no audience. Nobody will read it but me. There’s comfort there, it’s safe. I can write without a filter because I know it will not be judged. That knowledge moves the pen across the paper, it leaves the ink on the page.
You’ve seen that cliche scene in a film I’m sure. The dancer, or the athlete, practising relentlessly in private, demonstrating their talent. But when they step onto their stage, they choke.
The only difference is the audience.
With an audience comes the pressure of other people’s expectations. The tragedy, of course, is that you can never please everyone. As writers, we can’t take our most successful piece and rehash it week after week, hoping to please the people who enjoyed it before. That piece might have helped build an audience, but the repetition will soon help crumble one.
People don’t want to see a filtered you, prepared especially for the expectations you think they hold.
People want to see stories and ideas that are authentic, original, inspiring, emotive. You don’t want to disappoint your readers, but you’re only handicapping yourself by writing to fulfil imaginary expectations. You’re creating constraints for a medium that gives us boundless possibilities to captivate and connect with readers.
Some of my most successful pieces of writing have been pieces I almost didn’t write because I didn’t know how they would be received. I was thinking about the audience. I was scared.
That fear is paralysing, and you’ve felt it too. It’s what makes those drafts go unpublished. It’s what makes you stop writing a piece halfway through because you’re not sure if it’s good enough. Who is it not good enough for?
It’s never difficult to write in my notebook, but it’s while doing so that I have some of my best ideas. Those ideas have become my favourite and most successful pieces of writing. But they would have never existed if they were not born in that private place. A place that no-one ever goes but me.
You could dance like nobody’s watching, but you’re not a dancer. You’re a writer.