Writing is tough sometimes.
It’s not the forming sentences and making paragraphs that is so difficult. That part you can do. But it’s not the part that matters.
The part that matters is making it yours. Writing like only you can write. And doing it with creative freedom. This is the part that makes you get noticed, that makes your voice powerful, that makes you stand out.
How come it’s so hard to just be you?
In writing that is.
You probably have an easier time expressing yourself through your clothing choices or the foods you choose to eat. You’ve been doing that since your memories began.
It’s much harder to be yourself when it comes to writing. Even with practice.
Let’s look at a few reasons for this to understand the problem.
You might be carrying around a bunch of middle school English teacher expectations.
They creep in on me now and then.
How I hated those assignments we were given. They were stupid and
did nothing to encourage real expression, either in creative fiction
or in essay writing. College wasn’t a whole lot better.
You know that academic tone and the rules for creating an essay. Well they have their place and purpose, and if you do them well you are rewarded. But that has little to do with bringing yourself to your writing. Mostly it’s following the right rules along with some cleverness.
All that stuff you are told you hear at such a young age it leaves deep impressions on you. It’s an huge effort to throw off that junk. It’s no wonder people only talk about writing and never do. Too many terrible memories that create terrible self-limiting beliefs.
Free yourself from those expectations. Your writing can be fresh, original, and it can be YOU. Of course, different types of writing demands different tones and styles. Instructions don’t leave a lot of room for play. I’ve spent a decade writing them. Even so, they are still done my way, and I get compliments on the clarity.
Holding yourself back
Fear and doubt. Those are the biggest resistances to bringing more of yourself into your writing. It’s scary to talk about your failures, your bad habits, your inner emotions. Or in more formal business writing, to say what you need to say without being overly stiff and falling back on long words to impress.
All those things that make you vulnerable also make you human. Someone that your audience wants to connect with.
I hold back my own experience. It’s a process to learn to get through the layers and share them one by one. I didn’t always feel as I did today. For years I was stuck in a pattern of feeling like a failure, feeling like all I did was hurt people. I only wanted to hide in my shame. That wasn’t necessary or helpful. It was an excuse not to try. I let my fear overpower me.
Don’t let your fear become an excuse as I did for so long. Make small deliberate efforts to share things that are difficult. Or to write in a way that is simple and clear and easy to read. It’s only fear that makes us choke up our writing with complications.
Holding back doesn’t get you closer to your goals. Neither are you helping others when you hold back. You won’t inspire or motivate anyone this way.
You aren’t used to it
Writing isn’t just something you do now and then if you want to be great at it. It’s a practice you need to have. As you practice, you learn to do it better. And that includes being yourself through your words.
You have a lot of power in you. Expressing it is a skill that you have to build up. The more you do it, the easier it becomes to share your experience and wisdom with others. This is true no matter the medium you choose.
The same is true for using stories in your writing. If you aren’t used to it, you will need to practice it over and over until you do it well.
What can you do to be more you?
There are a few things that are very helpful in bringing in more of yourself besides what is written above.
How you use your creativity is what makes you unique. It is what allows you to be yourself.
You are an enormously talented and creative person. You have ideas and experiences that can be at your fingertips whenever you need them. All you have to do is get used to drawing them up.
It’s already been said here a few times, but you get better at expressing your creativity the more you do it.
I once thought I wasn’t creative at all. It was pure pain for me. Watching others create and make progress while I had no ideas, no direction and was just stuck. I wasn’t paying any attention to my other modes of creativity. I was so settled in one way of thinking.
You and I can do better than this if we work on it. Embrace your creativity and express it in words and in what you do.
There are loads of rules about good writing. Some of which you hold way too tightly, like I do.
For example, a sentence must have a subject and a verb. It doesn’t. A sentence can be anything you imagine it to be. Anything.
It’s all a matter of flow. One-word sentences punctuate and make impressions. You can use them like little barbed arrows when you want your reader to stop in their tracks. Now, you don’t want to do that sort of thing too often or it will be choppy and unreadable. Use them in the right order and time.
I went through a phase when I was writing a lot of fiction where I thought all my sentences should be super long with loads of dependent clauses and the like. They were masterfully crafted, so I thought. Until I read them. They had no flow. They were confusing, meandering and didn’t express anything properly. I ended up breaking them all up on re-writes. I even added some one-word sentences. That felt risky. And freeing too. So much expression can be packed in one little word. My writing was so much the better for it.
The best way to learn which rules to break where is through experimentation. You’ll find it’s all situational. Some things work in certain places and not in others.
Read and practice
Every writing teacher tells you to read.
You don’t have to write every day, but reading you must do. It is hard to fit it in with everything else you have going. I feel your pain. I love to read, and I love it when I have a really good book.
I do my best, and that’s all you can do too.
Did I mention practicing? It’s so important that it needs another mention. Practice as much as you can. Follow along this blog, because I’m going to give you practical trainings to do periodically. Small exercises you can squeeze in your free moments. They can be fun, and they will be designed to allow you to practice being yourself.
Get to know yourself
This has everything to do with writing.
You can get to know yourself in many ways, doing many things. “Doing” being the keyword. The more you do along with time for reflection, the more you learn about yourself.
Writing is doing something too, and you can learn about yourself through writing. Most types of writing anyways. I never learned so much about myself as when I worked on writing novels. I did them intensively, so that accelerated the pace. It was a marvelous experience. I grew quite a lot and realized things I wanted from life in the process.
The better you know yourself the more you bring to your writing.
Your life can become your greatest source of content. You have many experiences and challenges to draw from that can teach others about your perspective and the lessons you have learned.
And lastly, I am adding in here to accept yourself. It’s here you give yourself freedom to be just be yourself and be ok with that. I’ve seen so many incredibly gifted people that weren’t alright with themselves and forced to draw back and retreat. Learn to be alright with who you are. From your outer skin all the way to your core. The more you can do this, the better you can handle what you produce. And this is an excellent place to improve from.
Bringing your uniqueness to your writing will set it apart and get it noticed. It’s not easy to do this for most of us.
The main reason is because rules and expectations lock us in so we can’t see the possibilities for what we can create. There is always another way to do things, and finding your own way is the best place to start.
Engage your creativity, learn about yourself and share, share, share. Your powers of expression grow with each sentence.