On June 26 I had the privilege of speaking to the Siskiyou Writers Club in beautiful Mount Shasta country. About twenty members received me into their midst with warmth and enthusiasm!
Each month club members are offered writing challenges, and I was invited to stay and listen to the readings for June’s challenge. I was treated to a wide range of imaginations and styles—humor, drama, plus a heartwarming reflection by a teenager who won a local writing contest. Too bad I live over five hours away! I would love to drop in on these talented folks more often.
Below are notes from my presentation, “Fan Into Flame Your Writing Gift.”
“Fan Into Flame Your Writing Gift”
If you consider yourself to be a writer, then you are likely gifted in two ways: You see visions and you feel motivated to share those visions with others.
The 16th-century artist Michelangelo once wrote: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, your gift as a writer is to see the angel in the marble and then to search for just the right words to help others to see what you see.
By “fanning your gift into flame,” I mean to recognize and value your specialness as a writer and to diligently pursue the course that your gift lays out for you. I suggest four principles to help you do this:
1. Know Who You Are
Before you sit down to write, work up a character profile on yourself. Force yourself to think about the difficult issues:
- What do you really believe? What doubts do you have?
- What are you angry about? What are you afraid of?
- If you were put in charge of the universe, what are the first three things you would change?
- What sort of people do you dislike and why?
- What is your favorite kind of book to read when no one is looking? Would you like to write a book like that?
- What questions do you long to have answered? Chances are your readers are looking for answers to those same questions.
2. Use Your Own Voice
Now that you know who you are, write out of who you are. Ask yourself, What especially qualifies me to write about this? Consider your personal history—traumas, problems you’ve overcome or felt defeated by, external forces that have shaped you, perhaps a teacher, an abusive parent, or a loving neighbor. What makes your perspective fresh and different? This quality is important not only for marketing but because it gives your voice authenticity and authority. When others see what you see, they will take it seriously. They will believe you.
Like the Eric Liddell character in the movie Chariots of Fire, write for the sheer pleasure of doing something that you feel you were created to do. Enjoy your giftedness! If writing is not a joyful experience for you, perhaps you are not yet writing out of your own truth, or perhaps the genre you’ve chosen is not a good fit for you right now. Explore and experiment until you find that “sweet spot” of writing for sheer pleasure. Authentic joy in your work gives you emotional confidence. It also infuses your writing with energy that will resonate with your readers.
4. Stand Behind Your Work
Believe in your work! If you have applied yourself to Principles 1, 2 & 3, then you can trust that you have produced a work of integrity, which will give you confidence to speak about yourself and your work without apology. Writing with integrity also changes your definition of success. If you have written with authenticity, the authority of your own truth, and the joy of exercising your gift, then you can count yourself successful even before the first copy of your book is sold and without comparing yourself to other authors and their successes.
As a final note, don’t take it personally if people don’t like what you’ve written. People respond out of their own needs, and you cannot control their reactions to what you write. Commit to writing from your heart and then stand behind your work. Be willing to talk about it, blog about it, promote it. Boldly offer your vision to the world in a voice that only you can speak.