Advice on writing from one still learning

Henriette Browne, ‘A Girl Writing’

In fifth grade, a classmate wrote a poem and read it to the class. She received a lot of attention for this endeavor. Eager for attention, I began writing poetry, too.

In sixth grade, I began writing stories. In my mind, a “novel” was at least 100 pages. The stories ran on and on in order to reach that mark. I wrote many “novels” this way.

In 7th grade, I stayed up late at a friend’s house discussing with her brother the question of what it means to be observant. My writing matured after that conversation.

Writing became an escape, an adventure, an ambition, a best friend. It was lonely stuff living out in the country for this little extrovert. Writing created beautiful worlds full of stories that work out, dreams achieved, relationships formed, love returned.

I wanted to be a great writer. I wanted to be published. I applied myself to every opportunity to write and sought to master every style of writing. I believed flexibility in style meant true mastery. Although my fiction days were over at age 20, I still sought to grow in skill. Writing again through this blog has been a great joy for me, getting back into it, rediscovering my voice, trying to learn and improve. It proves a good medium for the busy life of motherhood.

A friend told me she has a “hard time finding a voice.” She wrote her “job is so formal and my previous writing was so informal, I have a hard time finding a middle ground.”

I responded by saying, “perhaps if you intentionally tried to write in different styles, like James Joyce one week, Jane Austin another, a favorite blogger another, things like that, than you’ll find your own voice.” I think of Forrester directing the young man in Finding Forrester to copy the openings of the old man’s essays until his own voice takes over.

There are other obstacles that come up as we seek to express through written word. Another friend writes, “when I start, I feel like I have nothing to say or write about, or that my writing is poor and doesn’t flow…Sometimes I think I let the ‘perfect be the enemy of the good’ because I am so nervous that my product will be bad, that I don’t even begin!”

We can’t begin by writing for an audience. If we do, we’ll merely be performing and that is no way to find one’s voice. I started by recycling old work, my story A Girl and Her King, or writing reflections on moving books. Now I’m finding the thoughts flowing more, inspiration arriving more frequently.

As to the production, I have two different methods. First method is to jot down notes and save. I return to them and write a lot. Then I edit down.

Second is when the Spirit is on and it all just overflows, but I don’t have any control of when that happens.

It took me a long time to find this voice. I didn’t realize I had it until a few people commented on it recently. I’m rather scared to think I have it now; scared to think I’m better than I actually am.

Lastly, I’ve also found, in helping others, that some times when you have someone else read your stuff a little advice can go a long way. There might be one rock we continue to stumble over in each project.

In the end, writing is not a product, it’s an expression.

Good luck!

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