Writing starts with YOU.
Who you are now.
Where you come from and what you carry around inside of you.
Being a writer is using these parts of you to create work that engages and inspires people in an authentic way.
Who am I? I don’t know, it changes from day to day but one way I keep track of who I am is keeping a journal. My thoughts, dreams, aspirations, failures, rants and all the things I carry around inside uncensored in vomit size chunks, to track my progress as a person and as a writer.
Why do I want to be a writer? I don’t know but I do know what other writers have done for me. The first time I read Toni Morrison, I felt that she had shone a light into the darkest corner of my soul and helped me see what lurked there. When I read “the bluest eye” she lead me kicking and screaming into understanding and seeing the humanity of a character I would have condemned in real life as a monster. It changed me profoundly forever.
Unlike most writers I came to literacy late at the age of ten. Reading a book by myself for the first time was a true experience of magic. That someone thousands of miles away or centuries away from where I was sitting had written their thoughts, their story down and by looking at the words I could see, hear and feel what they wanted me to experience. If that isn’t telepathy I don’t know what is.
And all the writers who came after that first book, George Orwell making me laugh so much I once nearly peed myself on a train, James Baldwin making me weep and feel things I didn’t know I had in me, Dostoevsky taking me to places I could never imagine going. That is what I want to do for other people. I may never achieve it but writing is my way of trying.
What do I have to say? I don’t know but when I do, that is when the pen is mightier than the sword. There’s that part of us as writers that wants a pat on the back, the recognition of publishers or massive readership or a way to prove to our doubters or family that we are not wasting our time. When we remove these crippling expectations and just write what we are passionate about it keeps us authentic, inspired and empowered.
Think of it this way. There are about seven billion people in the world. Even if your book, or film or whatever you are writing will only appeal to one in a million people, that is still seven thousand people who will engage, connect and appreciate whatever you have to say to them!
How do I keep the writer side of me going? Just by doing it. Writing consistently everyday and training myself not to worry that it won’t get anywhere or it’s not good enough. Being a writer is a vocation: a strong impulse, a summons, a strong feeling of suitability to a particular state, occupation or course of action. So I say to the writer side of you, give in to the vocation, be passionate, be yourself and let the chips fall where they may.