Mar 13, 2022
2 mins read
I often say to my writing clients that it doesn’t matter what they write, it just matters that they write. This sounds almost counterintuitive, but it’s how you get past the shouting voices in your head which tell you that you are not good enough, that you are not allowed, that you will always be the kid in the corner of the playground whom people laughed about behind their hands. (It’s amazing how many of those children grow up to be writers.)
You might have nothing in your head, but that doesn’t matter either. This is almost a matter of building up muscle memory. Every morning at six or every night on the stroke of twelve, or at whatever hour you choose, your fingers start moving over the keyboard. You can write nothing, nothing, nothing if that’s all you’ve got. You can write precisely what is happening in that moment if you don’t have a single useful idea. (Darwin the Dog is lying beside me on the bed snapping his jaws at a particularly annoying house fly which arrived two days ago and refuses to leave.) You can write: I wish I knew what to write.
As long as you type something, for five minutes every day.
And then you might make it ten minutes, or even twenty. Your fingers are now so used to the process that they start moving almost before you sit down. You start to love the little clicking sound the keys make on your computer, as you create sentences where there was only a white space. You become entranced by following absurd lines of thought which gallop off in all directions. (You don’t care that you often mix your metaphors.) You love that there is somewhere silent and private where you can put all your secrets, and your dreams, and your fears.
And then what happens, one day, when you are least expecting it, is that you feel strange and sad if you can’t write things down - because you are driving somewhere all day or you are trapped under a piece of furniture or something. A day without writing becomes odd to you, a little uncomfortable, as if you have a stone in your shoe.
I think that building this habit is vital for writers. (If you are an athlete or a musician, you practise every day. Exactly the same thing with writing.) But I also think it is gloriously helpful for life. You can put all those heavy things down on the page, because the page can take it. You can lay your burden down.
You can get uncomfortable emotions off your shoulders and you can untangle incoherent worries and you can get a sense of perspective. You can do so many things, if you write it all down. You can set yourself free.
And the beautiful thing is that anyone can do it, one word at a time. That’s all it is: one word after another.