Most commonly, as I scour sites like Quora for blog ideas, I see the query, “Best writing advice”. Generally, the responses cover technical aspects of the craft, like making sure to read frequently, and downloading editing applications like Grammarly. While these tips are extremely useful, I found that when I look back at my personal experience as a writer, the advice that has lingered doesn’t cover the technical aspects at all. Simultaneously, the advice that has helped me the most is altogether broad and narrow.
Let me provide some background.
After I graduated college early in December 2017, I finally received my creative writing, and English degrees; I shouldered the dream of becoming a respected Writer and Editor, then turned to face a cold and confusing winter. Reality, away from the safe space I carved out for myself in college, was a giant smack across the face. I knew nothing and no one, and each day was another stumble away from my dream. Aimlessly, I drifted, and the heat of summer approached. And as I tried to land on my feet, I reached out to a few connections back at my college.
Sadly, I’ve fallen out of contact with him, but I used to email one of my creative writing professors, Gordon Mennenga. Being a shy introvert, I’ve always found comfort in listening to others. Gordon was a professor I could listen to all day. And I’m not just saying that. He was the Grandpa I never had. I loved visiting his office, hearing his life stories, and was in awe of the tales he could create on the spot. He has such a clear vision of the world, and I knew he had a deep comprehension of the human psyche. You can hear some of his advice on The Writing University Podcast, Episode 105, Writing Under the Influence. (Skip to 1 minute, 30 seconds in).
In one of my emails, I lamented about how I felt like a failure because I hadn’t become a hotshot Editor yet, and I hadn’t written fiction in quite some time.
His response was long, with his usual wisdom and humor laced throughout, but the line he closed with struck me: “Ideas come to life when you do”.
I wrote it down and look at it every time I sit at my desk to work.
Another piece of advice comes from one of my former workshop buddies. Feeling down on myself (yet again), I questioned if I could even be considered a writer if I wasn’t getting the words on the page as I used to. He told me, “Writing is a way of looking at the world”.
Outside of school, where my entire focus was putting words on the page and refining my craft, I failed to learn about what being a writer really means.
As backwards as this sounds, writing is about so much more than putting pen to paper. It’s about living your life, experiencing whatever you can to the fullest, and making observations about the world around you. Whatever you do with your life, whether you make a penny off your written word or not, you’re a writer.
Writing is a way of thinking, learning, and translating thoughts to a page. Writing is a way of speaking. Writing is a way of scrutinizing the world, whether it’s taking a deep look at humanity, nature, sense of self, whatever muse entrances and influences your craft. Writing is a way of questioning everything, or nothing at all.
Writers don’t just write; it’s simply too narrow. I’ve believed this my entire life, and I’ll shout it from all the mountaintops I can: the power of creation is one of the most mighty skills one can possess. You can create anything through written word.
Yes, read all you can, and write all you can. Study grammar and familiarize yourself with successful techniques of the craft. But don’t forget to live your life. And when you finally find a moment to scribble in your notepad, or type your fingers off in front of your computer monitor, bring the knowledge you’ve gained, lessons you’ve learned, and observations with you.
Because of course, ideas come to life when you do.