People used to write more. In Jane Austen novels, the characters are constantly picking up a pen to jot something down. Granted, this was their main means of communication without hopping on a horse to trot off and deliver the message in person but, still, there are important lessons to be learned from such practices.
For some people like myself, writing falls into our laps so organically that we find it hard to imagine life without it. For others, it is more of a struggle, but one worth trying to overcome.
The main obstacle in the path of writing seems to be a misconception that one should write for others. This opens up cans upon cans of worms – is this the correct term? Is this the right tone? Do I sound pretentious/ ignorant/ too assertive, etc. – causing people to second guess themselves and then throw in the towel altogether. The first lesson to learn is that everyone has their own voice. Sure, it varies depending on the style of the piece – academic, colloquial, etc. – but it is a unique trait. Trying to adopt another voice, one you believe will be more pleasing to your audience, will most likely come across as unbelievable, and thus fake and insincere. This is detrimental to writing, when readers need to feel the passion behind the words.
Even whilst writing to an audience, be it a paper for a professor or a review for a magazine, you must also be writing for yourself. Once you are comfortable with this concept, writing will cease to be a chore, and become a tool of self expression.
I have dozens of journals stored away that I wrote between the ages of eleven to eighteen. These were tough times, I was approaching adolescence and all of the horrors that accompany it: uncertainty, changes in friendships, discovery of boys, bras, bikinis! At that age, image feels like it is everything, not only in regards to your body but the attitude you must emit to your contemporaries – one of confidence and of being unshakeable when, in reality, your mind is running at a hundred miles an hour and you have never felt so confused.
They are incredibly embarrassing to read now, and many of my teenage woes seem so unimportant and trivial in hindsight but, at the time, I needed to let out my feelings to someone, or something, that wouldn’t judge me, that wouldn’t become bored if I discussed the same subject time after time, and that wouldn’t spill my secrets. My journals were my security during a crazy time and were of so much value.
Whilst I don’t need to keep a journal so religiously nowadays, I still resort to writing down my problems working through any issues I have on paper, particularly when I feel my usual confidants are getting sick of me. While writing, you are free to talk as much as you need to, repeat yourself as much as necessary and best of all, at the end of the page, you can look back and digest how you are feeling, and start to order the muddle in your mind that so often accompanies stress.
This is why you should write, at least to begin with. Write for yourself, write for your privacy and for your self containment and to allow yourself to solve your own problems – it feels fantastic!
You should also write to communicate – extend the concept of a WhatsApp message into a heartfelt greetings card – use Hallmark to allow you to tell others how you feel about them, to wish them the best, to tell them every so often, be it only once a year on their birthday, that you appreciate them. Such small gestures make recipients feel wonderful, and are relatively low effort for such a high yield.
Write to share your passions. If you visited a restaurant that you enjoyed, tell others on, say, TripAdvisor. People trust others, your review can influence choices and it will mean the world to the business in question. Or take it a step further and write for a publication; if you are passionate and knowledgable about something, readers will be grateful that you shared your expertise, you will educate them and may even inspire somebody.