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Do you need courage to write?

October 29, 2017

pencils

Photo: John (CC)

Writing comes easy to me. But it wasn’t always the case.

Forgetting those painful first steps has made it harder for me to coax potential writers out of their shells. After all, I wouldn’t hand a trumpet to random strangers and expect them to belt out a short melody.

The art of music is more than blowing air through a horn, just as the art of writing is more than just writing words down.

During a few presentations, I’ve asked audience members to write a haiku on any topic they pick. I figured 17 syllables wouldn’t be taxing for anyone.

But I was looking at it all wrong.

To read aloud your contrived poem to the potential of great humiliation by everyone within earshot is a terrible risk. Better not to do it at all.

And so, maybe only one or two hands would go up to volunteer their work.

Even privacy offers no such security blanket. I had assigned a blogging student what I thought would be an easy homework assignment: Create a free blog on any platform, set it to private, and write one entry per day. That entry could be “To be, or not to be.” It could be a random word. It could be a single typed character.

The goal was simply to get her in the habit of writing daily blog posts, even if the posts were gibberish. She never posted once.

I forget the courage you must muster to put (digital) pen to (digital) paper. Without it, no amount of writing coaching or skill-building exercises will help.

I don’t know what it takes to try to write. I remember how silly and foolish I feel when starting any new activity: weightlifting, walking on a treadmill, cooking, replacing a part in my car. But I acclimate and move on.

Most of you will never find the courage to write that first sentence. The risk of failure or shame far outweighs the opportunity to develop a vital talent.

For the rest, do it. Write an anonymous nonsense comment below. Vanquish your timidity.

Only then can you begin to develop a callus on your writing muscle.

• • •

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 30, 2017 1:16 pm

    Where is the nonsense … Where are the vanquished … as timid as Dorothy’s lion … hear me squeak.

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