The Strengths of My Writing
I work with a wide variety of other creative types, to make their work better. In the past few months alone I have worked alongside poets, songwriters, lyricists, publishers, and bloggers in trying to ensure they put the best possible product they can out.
In doing so, I’ve learned a lot about myself and my own work. I see mistakes others make and use them to improve my own writing.
Those I’ve worked with who are newer at writing have often asked me about my approach or “my process”, to which I often refer them to a Kris Gage article to where she discusses how much she hates the term altogether.
I do this, not to be condescending but because my process isn’t about morning rituals, cold showers or cups of chamomile tea. It’s one I’ve developed over say the last fifteen to twenty years, which first and foremost started with obsessively studying my favorite art forms and writers.
I spent years listening to and reading the lyrics of any musician who I felt truly had something worthwhile to say before I ever wrote anything worthwhile.
I ignored lectures from professors and teachers, before going on to fail whole courses, because I was too busy reading, writing and using the classroom computer to look up and break down obscure lyrics and random quotes.
I stand by that decision, as I believe doing so was far more valuable to my real-life education than whatever it is those teachers were rambling about.
I’m confident I write a better essay than every English teacher I’ve ever had. Sure, they’d be better with the formalities but where my advantage lies is in content and subject matter. It comes down to a matter of willingness, a matter of how vulnerable we’re willing to be in our work.
The artists I truly learned from, who I consider my real teachers, weren’t afraid to say whatever it was on their minds at the time they sat down to write. Their anger and pain were made obvious through their word choice and delivery, no subject was off-limits.
From alcoholic and crack-addicted mothers to fathers who abandoned them before they could talk to being betrayed by wives, lovers and the best of friends, their bodies of work were born. Near-death experiences and having their entire lives put on trial gave them the power they expressed through art.
It was like they had saved up their grand totals of lifetimes filled with pain and hurt, just to channel it all into their work. If I have a process at all, it’s doing exactly that. I’ve ended more than one story I’ve written, with tears in my eyes. This is the paradox of the strength in my writing.
Remembering my lowest of lows and being able to vividly recall them at a moments notice, is probably one of the greatest attributes of my writing. While most folks with a half-decent memory and a functioning brain are capable of doing as much, a very small percentage of those people would be willing to open up and talk about them in detail to complete strangers.
However, I have no problem with doing so because I believe this is what produces the best kind of art and the most genuine brand of writing. Not only that but in its own way, writing can be extremely therapeutic. I’ve found more closure through doing this than real life has ever provided me with.
I’ve been able to put issues to bed that I once feared would haunt and hurt me forever. It is through writing I’ve been able to forgive both myself and others for acts I once deemed unforgivable. While I’m not certain this is a skill that can be taught, it’s a process that has gone on to make my writing what it is today. I invite you all to try it and see if it doesn’t improve the quality of your content and work.
I’m not suggesting you sell your deepest secrets or soul for the sake of your art, only to open up as much as you possibly can and let the world in every time you sit down to write. Show others who you really are, how you feel and what you’ve been through in your writing. There is power in vulnerability.
Fearing what others will say or think about what you write or have written is purely a product of inflating your sense of self-importance and nothing more. Generally speaking, your average person doesn’t care. The ex you write about isn’t going to read it, they’ve moved on. Maybe you’re only writing about them, so you can too. Irrational fear will freeze you in time if you let it.
I have written deeply personal stories about my mother and she’s read exactly none of them, despite the fact they’re made available to the entire developed world via the internet. Do you know why that is? Because most people, including her, are too self-involved to concern themselves with what even those they love are doing. They’re too busy battling their own demons to actively watch you exercise yours. Most people fail to acknowledge this.
This knowledge has provided me with an extraordinary amount of freedom and openness in my writing. Even if I’m wrong and all those I never intended to read my words are doing so as I write this, my work has benefited immensely from believing otherwise. I never let fear cripple my art, which has given me the strength to go to the lengths I have to allow people to relate to it.
Putting drugs and alcohol down in 2014 left a void in both my days and soul. I filled both of those open holes up with absurd amounts of reading and writing. However, it is not lost on me how many stories I would have never been able to write if it wasn’t for drugs and alcohol. The life experiences I endured as a result of them have provided me with as much subject matter, as putting them down has clarity and the time to actually write.
So go live, make mistakes, and learn from them. Study the greats and pinpoint what exactly it is that makes them great. Then and only then, might you stand a chance at making it, whatever that even means.
In short, the strengths of my writing came from learning from others who do it and did it far better than I’ll ever be able to, then imitating them until I developed a style and voice that grew uniquely into my own over time.
Not worrying about what others thought about my work, gave it legs to stand on. It provided the wherewithal to dig deep into the depths of my hurt and search for the life lessons in my own experiences — and then share them all with you.
It is my belief each and every one of us has the power to do this and those who are willing to actively practice it stand the best chance at becoming the greatest of their generation at what they do.