I’d asked the students in my Creative Writing class to pick an object in the room that symbolised how they were feeling that night. Each student read, and we all heard about the requisite blank-pieces-of-paper-waiting-to-be-filled, and doors-open-in-anticipation. Then we got to Rhonda*. She sighed, picked up her piece of paper, and read: “Tonight I feel like that fire extinguisher in the corner. Ignored by everyone at home until there’s an emergency, and then everybody suddenly wants me to come and put the fire out.”
The entire class erupted in laughter and applause.
These students were an amazing group of people, and Rhonda stood out as Rhonda not because she had aptitude for writing (frankly, she didn’t) but because she had the gift of observation.
When I talk to people about the need to regularly write blogs or emails, ideally once a week, as part of their strategy, they giggle nervously. What do you write about week after week? What about inspiration? What if you’re no good at composing?
Valid questions – just irrelevant.
Your regular, meaningful written communication with the world has nothing to do with ideas, inspiration, or aptitude. It has everything to do with observation. It’s what made an average writer get a round of applause, and it’s what will make you connect with your audience (which, you should already know, is also your market).
If you don’t have any ideas, observe.
If you’re feeling uninspired, observe.
If you’re worried about the quality of your writing, cut the crap and just observe.
Long enough ago to forget where, I read that “There are no days or lives without drama, pathos and humour; only days and lives unexamined.”
I live by that. I write by that.
Every day is there for you to write about. Listen to what people are saying: their concerns, their challenges, their joys. How can you address them? Look at events taking place: if nothing has meaning except the meaning we give it, what meaning can you give to a child behind bars, or to not being able to open a jam jar? When you’re doing overwhelm, pick up a toilet paper tube and look through it: what can you see? Write about that one thing, why it’s important, and what we can learn from it.
And make observation a daily, hourly, momently thing. Because meaningful communication with our fellow humans is too important to be something that – thank you, Rhonda – stands ignored in the corner until there is an emergency.
*Pff. As if. Of course that’s not her real name.