by Stephanie Morrill
Stephanie writes young adult novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and the Ellie Sweet books. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.
"If anywhere in your soul you feel the desire to write, please write. Write as a gift to yourself and others. Everyone has a story to tell. Writing is not about creating tidy paragraphs that sound lovely or choosing the right words. It's just about noticing who you are, and noticing life, and sharing what you notice. When you write your truth, it is a love offering to the world because it helps us feel braver and less alone."
-Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On, Warrior
Sometimes I make this writing thing too complicated.
I have often slipped into the trap of thinking that "real writers" live life a certain way. Especially when I was younger and imagining what my life as a writer looked like. Even after I got over the misconception that serious writers live in New York City, are married to their work, and wear only black, there have still been many lies I've needed to shed.
That's what inspired the Writing Advice Examined series that I've been writing these last few months. We hear a lot of supposed-tos, and it's easy to confuse suggestions for good writing habits or helpful advice with, "This is what I must do if I want to be taken seriously as a writer."
A few examples of lies that I've believed are:
- I must write every day.
- I must be smart about grammar. (I can scrape by. That's about all I can say for my grammar skills.)
- I must be knowledgeable about all authors. ("Stephanie, you're a writer. Surely you've heard of so-and-so." Um...)
- I must think about my characters and my stories all the time. That's how I know if I've done a good job creating them.
You know what my life looks like? Very ordinary. Lovely, but ordinary.
The majority of my time is spent doing what most parents spend a lot of their time doing—I change diapers, get kids to and from school, make lunches, fold laundry. Sometimes I'm thinking about characters or blog posts when I do these things, but often I'm tuned into my kids. There have been times when I have allowed this to make me feel like a less-than-real writer. Especially when I hear other writers talking about how they carry on conversations with their characters or have dreams about their stories. Maybe I don't love my stories enough, I would think at times of deep insecurity. Maybe I'm not a serious enough writer.
Last night when I was listening to Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton, her words jumped out at me:
Of course that's all it takes to be a real writer—that you have the desire to write. That you put words on the page. Why do I so often try to make it something more complicated?
Is writing an art? Absolutely.
Can we grow in our art? Of course.
Is it good to strive to be our personal best? Yes!
But it's not helpful to weigh ourselves down with all these other thoughts like, "Real writers must do this and this and this." Writing advice that grates against who we are should be discarded, as should any lies we tell ourselves about how real writers live.
You know what a real writer looks like? You.
If you have the desire to write and you're putting words on the page, then you, my friend, are a real writer. Carry on.
Yesterday, we started our May writing challenge which is simply to notice life around us and share what we notice. It's not too late to join in!