Mon, February 18 2013

Three thoughts on writing

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

Filed under:   Personal • Writing •

I love and hate to write.  Here are three pieces of advice based on my daily struggle with blogging, fiction and work-related writing.  I share these as a student, not a master.  These are lessons I re-learn every day in the creative process.  Writing is that way - casting you forever in the role of novice, whether you enjoy it or not.

1. Run toward uncomfortable.  If you write something that makes you want to hide or erase, keep going straight to that feeling.  You’re on to something.

2. Relentlessly live in that uncomfortable place as a way of life, ignoring every excuse and criticism.  This is the work of writing.  You pitch a tent in that awful, uncomfortable patch of land and spend time there every day, despite the harsh conditions, the many reasons you don’t have time to be there, and that loud inner critic who keeps distracting you.

3. Go there for no other reason than your own.  Write what you want to read, say what must, lay down what matters to you.  Don’t edit yet; just do what compels you.  This isn’t about seeking love, approval or fame.  They are rarely the results of writing anyway.  Remember - you’re in a tent in the wilderness, not on a stage.  This is about feeding yourself.

If you do these things, you will produce a work of writing.  Keep going till you feel done or are truly stuck.  Show it to smart people.  Listen.  It will be horrible to hear anything other than it is perfect.  Listen anyway.  Listen some more.  Take it in and turn it back into your writing.  It will get better, and you’ll be ready to run back to that rocky ground where your tent awaits. 

Eventually, something will emerge.  It will never match what you first imagined, but it will be something you can declare good enough.  If you get that far, I applaud you.  It’s not easy, and yet you stayed and worked and made it so.  The rest of us are clapping, because we know how hard it is.

  • Comment: (6)   


These are always good reminders, the thing I struggle with the most in writing is pushing through even when I think it’s awful. Getting something on paper (or on the screen) and then going back and editing it later is much more helpful than just staring at a blank page.

Posted by Jessica Green  on  02/18  at  11:27 AM

I’ve enjoyed your blog for over a year now. You have been a great inspiration to me for my job as an E.D. of a NPO. You have given me a lot of sound advice in that field. But, today, I want to thank you for giving me exactly what I needed to hear. I’ve been working on a book during my personal time and this was just the encouragement that I needed. Thank you so much for what you do for the rest of us. Carolyn

Posted by Carolyn Miller  on  02/18  at  11:39 AM

Your advice reminds of me of an episode of “The West Wing” (first season), when Toby Ziegler and Sam Seaborn—the White House’s two senior communications staffers—trying to find their talent, and they’re struggling over a birthday card for an assistant deputy director of an arcane department. Clearly, it was a task well beneath them, but the President had asked them to “really give it their best effort.” They couldn’t get past the opening sentence. I feel like that sometimes in my writing, but you just need keep writing—even if it’s just “doodle writing” as my writer-sister calls it.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/19  at  10:09 AM

Thank you for sharing these thoughts. ... Returning from my run today, they remind me just how similar the success principles of athletic breakthroughs apply here as well – that inner voice knows all the reasons why ‘now’ is time to quit—as pain and fatigue sets into each step—yet it’s in quieting that voice and pushing through that I can grow beyond;  it’s the coaching and feedback received that guide me forward; and it’s the perseverance that keeps me trying…

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/20  at  12:17 PM

Katya, this is my 1st visit to your site.  I love it.  So insightful to me.  I love writing, especially stories about animals for my site, and I have stories back-logged in my mind constantly.  Writing not a problem.  Enough time is the problem.  But, where I am failing miserably is not enough outside contact to promote my mission.  The social media tool insight was a revelation to me.  Don’t know how to use facebook….. yet.  Thanks so much for bringing this to my attention.  Thanks for sharing this.  Signed up for your emails.  Best wishes, Kitty

Posted by Kitty Pallesen  on  02/21  at  01:02 PM

I follow the same pattern…if I’m writing and feel like “oh my, I probably shouldn’t say that” I know that it’s something that probably needs to be said. The irony is that those edgier posts get the most amount of feedback compared to a more “vanilla” post. Thanks for the tips and the encouragement!

Posted by Natasha  on  02/24  at  03:34 PM

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