I’ve read a few (or many) books about writing and one theme that comes through is that you will learn a lot about yourself by writing. I think I learn as much, or maybe more, from reading. Not only the words, and the way people use them, but the memories and self reflections and subsequent knowledge that some words provoke.
Case in point: Cheryl Strayed compiled some of her Dear Sugar advice columns into a book. One of the columns was prompted by a query from a young woman musing about writing. Strayed used one line which struck me: “You have to tell us what you have to say.” Strayed had much more to say to the woman, including telling her to find humility and stop being so melodramatic about what it means (and doesn’t mean) to be a writer.
But it was the line about telling what you have to say that gave me pause. I know I need to write – not like I need to breathe or eat or sleep (talking about melodramatic), but I have ideas ALL THE TIME that I need/want to explore. I come across old writings and they surprise me. Not because they’re profound (talking about humility) but because of how far I have progressed, how much I have learned about how much hard work it takes to write and which ideas are worth pursuing.
Art and literature and design – all these things are subjective. To be acknowledged as a particular type of creative, you need to create something that someone will assist you in putting out into the world.
And yet, you have to tell us what you have to say. I cannot write in hopes of saying what someone wants to hear, but appreciate that it is within the uniqueness of what I have to say, that is where the value of my writing exists.
(Not to say that I don’t check my inbox everyday for that elusive response that someone has found that uniqueness interesting enough to publish!)