My creative writing teacher didn’t teach us something. I wish he had. If I were him, I would have said it.
It is the foundation of your writing. The source.
This missing piece of knowledge is the beginning of writing.
If you don’t have this, you can still write, but it doesn’t come from your soul. If you don’t write from your soul, what’s the point?
So why didn’t he teach us what it was?
Why You Write
I wanted to be a writer growing up, but I didn’t actually write much. I was too busy playing Rollercoaster Tycoon and watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Still, every once in a while, something would happen. I would have this thing come over me and I knew I had to get something down on the page.
I had to write.
After it happened several times, I started to recognize a theme I was writing about, a tone, even a subject. Now, I don’t need to wait for the moment to strike me. I can write what I have to write about even when I don’t have to.
You have to find that thing you have to write about. What story do you need to tell? What themes draw you to them again and again? Note: I said they draw you to them, not the other way around.
This is the secret that will bring you through the dark days of writer’s block. This is the key motivator that will make you face your fear of rejection (and the actual rejection) that comes with being a writer.
What do you have to write about?
Annie Dillard said, “When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner’s pick, a woodcarver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow.”
The best way of finding what you have to write about is to write. This secret story is hidden, and has probably been hidden a long time. Before you can write it, you have to find it.
To find the thing you can’t not write about, first you need to start writing.
Do you know what you have to write about? Make a guess and start writing.
A few days ago we talked about free writing. Let’s try that again. Remember, try not to use the backspace key or even think particularly hard about your writing.
For fifteen minutes, write about that thing you can’t not write about.