When I was a business reporter years ago at a newspaper in Northwest Arkansas, I came up with some of my own story ideas, but I mostly wrote what I was told to write.
Wal-Mart just released quarterly earnings. We need a story.
The manufacturing plant down the road is making a big announcement at a press conference today. Go cover it.
There’s a bunch of dirt being moved at the corner of Central and Moberly. What’s going in there?
You get the idea.
Those days of breaking news and weekly deadlines are long past for me.
For a long time, I didn’t write much of anything. I did think and read, though, more than ever in my life.
Now that I’m writing again, I can feel the effects of all that thinking and reading. As my book-loving daughter is fond of saying, readers make good writers. I see that coming true for her, and I hope it also applies to me.
I still think a lot, mostly while I’m doing other things like driving somewhere alone, vacuuming my house, weeding my flowerbeds or cleaning the shower. Writing ideas come freely during these times when my body is occupied but my mind is mostly free to wander. I don’t write while I’m driving, but I have been known to hurriedly scratch down an idea on a Chick-fil-A receipt while waiting for a stoplight to turn green.
I love it when I have to stop whatever it is I’m doing so I can pound out a thought on my kitchen laptop. It could wait, of course, but it might not be there when I’m done—in the same form or at all.
So I have to get it down while it’s fresh.
If I had to describe my writing style (after a year of blogging), I’d say I write from the gut. It’s not syrupy or emotionally driven, but it’s not strictly a mental exercise, either. My goal in writing is to be concise, honest and vulnerable, but without unnecessary drama. (That’s how I prefer my life, too, by the way.)
If I had a choice, though, I’d rather people be struck by the message of my words, not the style. Instead of, “that was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read,” I’d much prefer to hear, “I’ve never thought of it that way before,” or “what she wrote prompted me to change.” I’m not sure I’ll ever get to that point, but it is a goal that keeps me focused on what I know I should be doing.
How I write now is not exactly how I used to write. When I was a journalist, I told other people’s stories, without interjecting any of my own thoughts and feelings. Now, when I tell stories about other people, they are filtered through the lens of my own life, experiences and worldview.
It’s kind of the same, but it’s also very different. I learn from my personal interactions and observations, and I figure, if I can do that, someone else might too.
I also write from the perspective that I am not alone in my struggles. While I’ve gone through seasons when I felt like no one else could possibly understand, in the back of my mind, I always believed I couldn’t possibly be the only one. Not in this big world. There’s always someone else who can relate, someone who might be helped by reading.
So I write.
Last year at this time, I never would have predicted that I’d still be here today, writing about writing on my own personal blog. I don’t plan to change what I do in this space in the coming months, but I really don’t know what this next year will hold—for this blog or even for my life in general.
I do know this, though. Writing about writing (or anything else, for that matter) is much more satisfying than simply thinking about it. And sharing that writing with you is even better.
So thanks for reading. I appreciate you, every one.