Random Writing Rants, Writers on Writing

You gotta be you, I gotta be me

Getting to your best writing requires very little conscious thought. | Thinking (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

Picture it: Sicily, 1965. Wait. No. That’s the Golden Girls. Remember them? But I digress.

Picture it: You wake before your alarm and lie in bed waiting for your alarm to catch up. You get an idea. A brilliant idea. You should get up and start writing immediately, but your bed is so warm and snug. So, you don’t. Instead, you lay there for an hour, waiting for your alarm to make you get up, turning the idea in your head. It’ll be okay. You can write it down after you get up. It will still be brilliant then.

Only, it’s not. Somehow, the words that slipped through the sieve of your morning mind refuse to maintain their original early morning brilliance. On the page, they are wooden and just not quite right. What happened? Where did you go wrong? Was the idea just not as brilliant as you thought it was?

I know what happened. The problem is you filtered your own brilliance. Instead of pouring it directly onto the page, you stuck it into your ultra homogeneity filter and let it seep through into a plain white mug where it is indistinguishable from all of the other filtered ideas that have ever been placed on a page.

You can’t filter brilliance. When you try, you only filter out the good stuff. When you allow yourself to barf up your brilliance directly onto the page without THINKING about what you are writing, well, that’s when you do your very best work. The filter makes you worry about what other people might think. The filter makes you wonder which words a “better” writer might use to say the same thing.

By the way, there is no such thing as a “better” writer. You can be better than you were yesterday, but no one writer is better than another. More practiced, maybe. But better? Nah. The fact is, our first drafts are always garbage. Revising and editing, however—well, that’s a different story. But again, I digress.

The filter makes you ask yourself, “Who do you think you are? You know that brilliance isn’t going to stand up to the light of day.”

So, you filter your ideas, and you let your inner asshole editor pummel your brilliance until it’s barely a glimmer of its original glory. And then you think the filter is right. What you just wrote is terrible. Who do you think you are, anyway?

You are brilliant, that’s who you are. But only when you are being your true, authentic self. The filter removes the brilliance and leaves only a shadow of your true you.

You have to learn how to tap into your authentic self when you write. I know because I too am guilty of giving my filter too much merit. I have a blog and post written content all over the internet as the mood strikes me. Some of my work is guaranteed to make you snore. But once in a while, I will post something that prompts an outpouring of response. Readers relate to it. They agree wholeheartedly, or they tell me how ignorant I am, but either way, they respond. They let me know that I am not the only one reading my work. Even if you hate what I have to say, the fact that you feel the need to respond to it tells me that I am at least capable of invoking a reaction.

I realized recently that the pieces that get the most response are almost always completely unfiltered. Not that they are unedited. No, I edit everything until it bleeds. (I am such a brutal editor, sometimes I make myself cry.) What I am talking about is the writing that I poured out onto the page without allowing my filter to suck out the good stuff on its way out.

You have to be authentic in your writing. You have to be you, even when it’s scary. You have to be you, especially when it’s scary.

What’s that saying? You might as well be you because everyone else is taken. No one else can be you. No one else can convey your very own personal experience as well as you can. You have to tell your own story because no one else can do it as well as you can. No one else has your perspective. No one. Your original perspective is your unique selling proposition. It is the one thing you have that no one else does.

If you try to be anyone else but who you are, it will come across in your writing. Your readers can sense when you aren’t being authentic, and they don’t like it. They may not be able to pinpoint what it is that doesn’t work for them. They just know something isn’t quite right.

So, throw out the filter. Force yourself out of bed when an idea strikes, or at least keep a pen and paper next to your bed so you can write immediately without having to leave its comforting warmth. Tell your inner editor to go back to sleep. You don’t need her until after the writing is done.

How do you get your best writing from your head to the page? Please share in the comments below.

~Amanda L. Webster

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