Tuesday, October 13, 2015

My 500 Words, Day Two: What are my goals?

So the prompt for day two of this writing challenge (which unfortunately is not following on the heels of day one, but let's not get mired in the details) is to set some goals, or more specifically, to identify the change I want to see manifested as a result of my writing over the next month. There's nothing especially mysterious about this for me. I want to unshackle myself from whatever has kept me from writing over the course of my life. I don't even particularly care if the true reasons for my lack of inspiration ever become known to me. I suppose some self-reflection might be part of this process, and might lead to a better understanding of my fears and motivations, but honestly this isn't about me.

I know, you'll believe that when you see it. If there is one thing that's resonated with me in Jeff Goins's teaching, however, it's that the only way you'll succeed as a writer (whatever that means to you) is if you get out of your own way and use your writing to share your unique worldview. Seems simple, but if you think about it, it really has profound implications. Whatever kind of writing you do -- even the work-related or academic writing I bemoaned in my last post -- it won't bring you any kind of satisfaction (and certainly won't gain you any readers) if you aren't putting something of yourself into it. Though it might sound self-serving, the value that comes from your writing is in direct proportion to its uniqueness, and that uniqueness can only come out of the authenticity of your message and your affinity for your subject (some, including Goins, might say passion, though I'm reluctant to throw around that much overused term).

I think what resonates about this idea for me is that you can see this thread of meaning throughout entire bodies of work of great writers, even when that work takes many different forms. Poets who are also essayists, playwrights who are are also novelists, journalists who are also bloggers, it doesn't seem to matter what form their words take -- that worldview persists, sometimes lurking beneath the surface, sometimes yelled from a mountaintop, always moving their ideas into being.

I guess if there is a self-reflective goal I would co-opt for this challenge, it's just that -- to figure out what my unique worldview is, what I can offer a reader with complete openness and authenticity that might provide some value. My secondary goal, one that I hope would follow naturally from success in achieving my primary goal, is to feel a compulsion to write that keeps me going no matter how jaded, uninspired or insignificant I happen to be feeling. Part of me knows that those negative feelings are as much a reason to write as any other, to process them, own them, and channel them into written words that gain an entirely different kind of power once they've been uttered to other humans.

Who knows? Maybe I'll succeed ...

Friday, October 09, 2015

My 500 Words - Day One

Well, here we go. For the next 31 days, I'm committing to write 500 words per day. My intention is to write them in this blog, but I reserve the right to publish somewhere else (or nowhere else) if I so desire.

What I'll be writing about, I have no idea. I was inspired by Jeff Goins's My 500 Words coach.me challenge, which is going to provide me with a new prompt for each of the next 30 days (today's prompt is to commit to this challenge). Whether I'll stick to those prompts is yet to be seen, but Lord knows I could use some external motivation to help me develop the writing habit.

I guess I can fill out my 500 words today by contemplating what has kept from writing these last 30 years. Yes, it's been at least 30 years that I've imagined myself as a writer struggling to find his voice. I'm not using the term in its vague literary connotation, but rather in a very literal sense. In these 30 years, while I have written hundreds of thousands of words that I was compelled to write by work or school, I have written practically nothing for myself. Yes, there's been the odd poem, and every once in a while I've shaken the cobwebs off of this blog, but in no way have I written enough unsolicited material to claim my voice as a writer.

So what's been holding me back? Certainly nothing extraordinary. The typical self-doubt about the value of anything I'd see fit to write; an unwillingness to take the risk or show any kind of vulnerability; the fear that I'd bore myself to tears, let alone another reader. Logically, I know these fears are irrational, or at least irrelevant. I know that a writer writes, and if that writer has any notion of art being a factor in the words materializing on the screen or page, then these misgivings should be put to rest without much of a fight. And yet I still don't write.

I'm not going to belabor the point any more tonight. Hopefully the next 30 days of writing will do more to dispel my fears than any amount of navel-gazing ever could. I guess we'll find out.