On “Just” Writing


I was honored when Robert Yehling, founder of Wordjournies.com, wrote that I was good at “finding particular words or phrases” to convey “visits to deep inner sanctum places.” He asked how I might encourage writers to “crack open their deepest heart, their deepest secrets”  and “hang in there and get it on paper when it really gets tough and painful.”

I answered:

When I teach and offer students exercises that work (similar to the ones in all of my books on writing), I am fond of saying, “Do this without a lot of investment.” What I mean is, do the exercise and flow with it. Don’t get hung up on the importance of what you are writing about and conjuring up. If you concentrate on the importance, you are likely to start judging your writing as not up to the task and then you will become diverted from your best writing.

In my in-person classes, students write for 20 minutes using exercises. They just keep writing and when I call time, they are amazed at what they have written about. When they read, tears often flow, both from them and their audience.

This is writing from the deep voice and deep places. If you are writing well, the tears come after the writing.

I have been overwhelmed at times for days by the emotions my writing brings up, but that feeling of being overwhelmed didn’t happen while I was writing. It happened when I was reading my words. When I was writing, I was “just” writing. When the tears come later,  I am confirmed that to constantly grow and evolve and mature, I must bring my feelings forward and live them through vivid reflection on experience.

The Weeping Pillar in Istanbul’s Underground Cistern: People put their thumbs in a small hole in the marble and make a wish. When we write we are doing something similar–we find our way into a subject through an image or a phrase; then as we write, we feel our subject’s interior without thinking too much about it–just because it is there. When we let ourselves indulge in the activity for the sake of doing it, we find a wish comes true–the wish to evoke the meaning of our experiences.

2 responses to “On “Just” Writing

  1. I do many different kinds of writing, but the writing you so perfectly describe here is my favourite. It delves deep and always surprises. A great post, thank you!

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