My name is Murray Barnett, the owner of The Creative Writer and I, unashamedly, love to write.
I’ve loved writing ever since I can remember.
I wrote a poem in 8th Grade that my English teacher liked and he asked me if he could put it in the school magazine. I was amazed that it was ‘good enough’, but readily answered in the affirmative.
I used to astonish my friends in college when I told them I enjoyed writing assignments – they acted as if I was mentally unstable. Later, when I became an English language teacher and told my Korean students I entered essay competitions for fun (and was lucky enough to win a prize here and there), they just looked at me and shook their heads.
When I’ve had the opportunity to teach writing classes, I’ve found negative attitudes varying from minor annoyance to outright fear. This has led to many conversations with students about how to encourage and motivate reluctant writers. And I’d like to share with you some of the ideas we came up with – ideas that make the concept of enjoying writing possible.
Write about something you’re interested in
For many people, their perspective on writing is skewed in a negative way because all of their writing experiences have been in situations that they didn’t want to be in.
Not wanting to get an assignment back from a teacher or lecturer because you’re worried it’ll be covered in red pen due to grammar or punctuation errors.
Or having to respond to a million work emails, including those with a manager, colleague or customer complaining about something you did or said.
Or having to write a speech for a wedding that you have zero interest in attending.
All of these situations have the same common denominator – a lack of control.
Look for opportunities when you can write with freedom
Of course there are times in your life when you have to write. But look for opportunities when you can write with freedom. When you control the situation and are far away from the classroom, workplace or boring events. And where YOU choose what to write about.
Think of a topic that makes you smile – a person, a hobby, a sport, a personal item. Write down three reasons why that topic makes you happy – and bingo, you have the makings of a paragraph already. As you continue, think about what you want to see exist – what you’d like to read if someone else was the writer.
Forget about conforming to what other peoples’ expectations of ‘good writing’ are. Just use your own voice. The sense of empowerment might be more profound than you may first imagine!
Don’t worry about making mistakes
A major obstacle to writing enjoyment is the ‘internal censor’. It’s the voice inside your head that talks to you in a disparaging, condescending way when you’re writing – ‘This is no good.’ ‘You’re just wasting your time.’ ‘Why would ANYONE want to read this drivel?’
For many, this is a real menace, having been fed over the years by an accumulation of discouraging comments and failed attempts. Then, as the voice gets louder and louder, it gets easier to give into self-doubt.
Try a ‘timed session’
So, we need to minimise the negative impact of this voice. But of course, ignoring a loud internal censor is easier said than done.
The technique that I’ve found to be the best is the ‘timed session’. Set yourself a period of time, say five minutes, when you’ll write without stopping. Say to yourself before you start, ‘No matter what, I’ll continue writing for the whole five minutes. If I make a grammar or punctuation error, it doesn’t matter. If it doesn’t make sense or I repeat myself, I’ll keep going anyway.’
By following this strategy, you’re in effect telling your internal censor, ‘Look, I’ll listen to you when I’m revising and finishing my final draft. But when I first start writing, it’s only a rough draft. I don’t need accuracy, I need fluency. So don’t interrupt me and I’ll listen to you later.’
If you’d like to read more on similar issues, look out for more blogs in this Writer’s Workshop series. Or if you’d like to share your thoughts, contact me at [email protected].