Today marks my first post on Write Anything, an international website by writers, for writers helping people from all over the world and of all ages to, well, write anything. I’m honored to be a contributing writer, and I’ll be encouraging writers of all ability and experience levels to delve into the genre of creative nonfiction (personal essay, memoir specifically) and, as a result, live more authentically in everything else they do.
The first thing I encourage writers to do in my opening post is to write first for themselves. Because so much emphasis in our society has been placed on the final product (and then on what you did wrong in that final product), we’re taught to shy away from any type of writing in fear of judgment, failure, and all-out ridicule.
The truth is, though, that for most people who write, they share maybe 10% to 15% of what they write with a larger audience, if that. Yep– 85% to 90% of what we write never makes it to an audience bigger than one.
That’s not the way writing is taught in school, though. Nearly every writing assignment we offer our students is product-based with a pending evaluation. Although there is sound reasoning for assessment on some pieces, I think schools have really missed the opportunity to allow our children to embrace writing as a tool for discovery, exploration, risk-taking, and decision-making.
Instead, we send our young learners the message that writing is–and will always be–an evaluative reflection of yourself. There is no room for “shitty first drafts” as Anne Lamott calls them in her book Bird By Bird. There’s not even room for raw writing, brain drains, freewrites, or reflections that are just between the writer and the page. Everything, it seems, has to be evaluated.
Therein lies the inherent flaw, ladies and gentlemen. If everything we write faces evaluation, we will always consider writing as a tool by which others will judge us. We will not take risks. We will not challenge conventions. We will not write outside the lines. We need better-than good grades nowadays for colleges to even consider keeping our applications in the Maybe We’ll Consider You pile. There’s no time to be ourselves; it’s all about going through the hoops and generating the generically approved product that demonstrates little more than our ability to follow instructions and play nicely with others.
Writing is so much more than that. As individuals, as human beings for goodness sake, we need to get out of the ruts of manufactured writing and blaze a new path that embraces writing as a genuine tool for growth, understanding, and authentic living.
I hope you follow me and the other writers at Write Anything. This site is for all of us who still have the courage to pick up a pen and spend a few minutes scribbling on some parchment. And don’t worry. We don’t track you, follow you, or have any expectations except one: that you will write, and that you will trust yourself as the sole owner of those words.