Use Your Words Your Way

3 rows of birds on parallel wires, with one bird positioned differently

It’s okay to be you.
Image by Thắng-Nhật Trần from Pixabay

What I love about all the reading and editing and critical thinking that I get to do is the rich variety of styles and subject matter I encounter. The more kinds of writing I read, the more I enjoy.

Why am I telling you this? Because of the many ways that exist to write effectively. So often, colleagues, friends, and clients talk about the frustrations of not getting it right. Granted, sometimes, that reflects their genuine awareness that they’re not quite there. However, a lot of the time, that’s a reflection of their unfair self-comparisons with other writers.

Just as parents don’t do themselves justice comparing themselves to Instagram-perfect mommy bloggers, writers do themselves harm comparing themselves to the stars-du-jour in their genre. Anne Lamott points out that “perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.” Why volunteer someone else as our oppressor? Why accumulate the reasons why we don’t measure up to someone else?

How Do I Compare Thee?

Does your writing idol:

  • Produce 3,000 words from 4:30 to 6:30am each day?
  • Quote from seven or more different languages, always with exquisitely sensitive appropriateness?
  • Always look fabulous in their distinctive, just-threw-it-on way?
  • Have 100,000 followers on Twitter, where they publicly share private jokes with your five other favorite authors?
  • Humblebrag about their agent’s recent struggle to manage a bidding war over their latest manuscript?
  • Look better than you in a swimsuit?
  • Win awards for their day job as well as for their books?
  • Strut around proud of their ability to conquer big-R Resistance at every turn?
  • Post photos on social media of parties at their vacation house – paid for with the publisher’s advance on their last bestseller?

Does any of that really matter?

Brenda Ueland Said It All

In her remarkable book, If You Want To Write (1938) Brenda Ueland put it this way:

“Everybody is talented, original, and has something important to say. …No two identical persons have ever existed. Consequently, if you speak or write from yourself you cannot help being original.” [emphasis original]

De-link any expectations of future success or failure from the word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence reality. Commit your ideas to words. Your words. No one else’s.

Ueland again: “You should feel when writing , not like Lord Byron on a mountaintop, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten – happy, absorbed, and quietly putting one bead on after another.”

Here’s to writing effectively, in our own way, as confident and absorbed in the process as if we were a child stringing beads.

Are you planning to do NaNoWriMo next month? How are your preparations coming along? I’m in the outline swamp, and beginning to see dry land ahead. Let me know how it’s going for you.

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