Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Write Idea

Oma by Stephen Cartwright

I love you guys—I really do. You read my stuff. That's all I want out of this blog—an incentive to write and someone to read it.

When I was in 2nd grade I wrote a report on lettuce. I just made it up so it didn't have any factual information in it. I followed my mom around all morning begging to read it to her. When she heard it she said, (meaning well, I'm sure) "Let's look it up."

So she got out her cookbook and had me copy a paragraph about lettuce, and that's what I read in class. It was over fifty years ago and I still remember being devastated that nobody ever read my brilliant piece on lettuce. Since then I've followed lots of people around, begging them to notice my notations. Writers need readers.

At the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver we went to a book signing/reading by Anne Lamott, the author of Bird by Bird. She said,
"When my students ask why I write I say, 'Because I want to and I'm good at it.' I tell them what it will be like in the morning when I sit down to work, with few ideas and a lot of blank paper, with hideous conceit and low self-esteem in equal measure, fingers poised on the keyboard. I tell them they'll want to be really good right off, and they may not be, but they might be good someday if they just keep the faith and keep practicing. And they may even go from wanting to have written something to just wanting to be writing, wanting to be working on something, like they'd want to be playing the piano or tennis, because writing brings with it so much joy, so much challenge. It is work and play together."
Oma 24/7

I'm there. I love writing for it's own sake, but it is a scary business. You strip off your false front and show your bare-naked heart and actually ask for judgment.

When I'm sitting at my desk, alone with my keyboard and screen, the ever present worry is, "Will they get what I mean?" They are ever present on the other side of the computer or looking over my shoulder while I type. But when I look up to ask them what they thought, they disappear. "Who am I writing this for?" I wonder.

I loved your comments and emails on last night's post. I think we're all wondering who we're writing for, and if what we have to say is worth reading, even though we have important ideas clambering to get out. We put pressure on ourselves to be consistent, creative, funny, honest and useful without hurting anybody's feelings. And then we compare ourselves, speculating that our original isn't as original as theirs.

Isn't it interesting that reading someone else's doubts is so reassuring? Your questions answer my questions, reminding me that it's not about being the best, or the most popular. It's not even about lettuce. It's about connecting with others through words to discover ourselves. What I'm trying to say is thank you for being my they.


*Homework:

~Who are you writing for? Write a letter to them.

18 comments:

Kay Dennison said...

I write therefore I am.

Tiffany said...

Once again, you've put into words what so many of us feel. Thank you for this post. I love that quote and your thoughts about it--it really is work and play all at once.

My favorite line, however, is: It's not even about lettuce.

I'm going to be quoting that for years! XOXO, Travelin' Oma!

Christie said...

It's such a vulnerability, isn't it? I totally get this and relate to every bit of it.

Still got that lettuce paper? We'd love to read it...

Shanel said...

Travelin Oma... I look up to you...I know that when I read your blog... every post is GREAT... no matter what the topic and I hope to one day have even an ounce of your creativity... and humor....

Jennifer said...

I write because I can't help myself. Even when my fingers aren't on a keyboard, I write in my head, making up a commentary on my day as I go along. That's annoying, however, because it bothers me so much to write a really fantastic essay or character description, only to forget it in a few minutes. And yes, the need to be read is rather fierce. Checking my blog stats is addictive. Each number is another person who thought what I wrote was worth taking the time to read.

kenju said...

I agree with Shanel. It is not possible for you to have a bad or boring or irrelevant post.

Val and Eric said...

Jennifer, I write in my head too- running commentary of my day - and hate it when I forget! Sometimes I am writing to someone in particular, sometimes just to get it out of my head.
Oma, I love every post. You inspire me, teach me, and entertain me. Thank You for every word!

the wrath of khandrea said...

lettuce all be supportive of one another's endeavors.

the wrath of khandrea said...

i'm sorry. it was just too easy to pass up.

Raejean said...

I not only enjoy your posts, but I appreciate your willingness to share the tools of the trade. You encourage me to be a better writer. I write for my family with stories of their childhood and my life. I also write for moms who are always trying new ways to teach their children and connect with them at the same time.

marta said...

by displaying your true heart on the page you always reassure the rest of us. thanks for putting yourself out there. you are wise and brave and always lettuce learn from your life lessons.

xo. m

Nina said...

Lettuce! What an amazing thing to write about. I probably would have read it -- if you in turn would have read my tall tale about an animal with an elephant's head and chicken legs.

Ann Lamont. I love her book Bird by Bird. It would have been fun to go to her book signing.

I hope you keep writing because I certainly enjoy it. I will always be a 'they' for you.

Amy said...

I can't tell you how many writing projects of mine have been abandoned because "my original isn't as original as theirs". Thank you for understanding.

Michelle said...

thank you Oma. I am terrified of writing but I can't stop.

Heather @ Alis Grave Nil said...

I'll be your they anytime. I admire you for admitting that you write with a sense of audience. It seems so trendy for bloggers to say that they "write only for themselves" but then these same bloggers seem to have myriad followers and HUGE sites. I think there's something respectable about writing with an audience in mind. Of course I write for myself and my family, but there's an ever present sense of "they" for me too.

Great post.

Heather @ Alis Grave Nil said...

My homework.

Miranda said...

WHAT? You AND Anne Lamott were at the Tattered Cover. Dang. Now I'm even more mad I wasn't there. Humph.

Anger aside, this is a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing it, along with the rest of your wise and entertaining words.

Clair said...

"You strip off your false front and show your bare-naked heart and actually ask for judgment."

I think this needs to be hanging on my wall in my craft room. It's so true. :)

I blog to pass on my life to my posterity. I try to make it interesting to entertain readers, so naturally it's better than just any old journal of mine would be. I think it's a win- win.