Years ago I took a SFU writing course. Daniel Wood was the instructor. The man changed my writing life by giving me me two very tangible gifts.
First off, Mr. Wood realized that most of us were very embarassed and hesitant to call ourselves writers. He took his water bottle and, sprinkling its baptismal holy water over each wannabe, he declared us writers all.
We laughed. Perhaps a little nervously. But still…
I’m not sure how the rest of the class felt about it, but for me, something clicked. I realized I only had to declare it for it to be true.
“I am a writer.”
Voila! Writers are people who write. I write, therefore I am.
The second gift from Mr. Wood came in the form of a writing assignment. “When you’re done,” he said, “print off your article, read it out loud, and then underline your best sentence.”
Suddenly, it was no longer enough to tell the story.
Instead, I held up each sentence-brick, ensuring it was strong enough to stand alone and yet able to click in nicely with the next one to build the road of a story. I found myself not wanting to leave the ugly sentences out in the cold. I worked each of them harder. I polished and looked at each one, chipping off extraneous bits here, adding the perfect extra descriptor there, and as I did the exercise, something shifted…
I can see some of you rolling your eyes, looking back at my preceding paragraphs, and saying, “Uh, excuse me Colleen, but I think you forgot that rule with a lot of your previous sentences.”
And you’d be (mostly) right. I admit that I do not practise this with every blog post. Blogs, by their very nature, are less about polished essays and more about on-the-fly writing. This is not to say that I don’t put effort in to these posts.
Au contraire. It is sometimes embarassing just how much time goes into what looks like a deceptively dashed-off bit of writing…and don’t even ask me how long it takes me to find the ‘perfect’ photo.
However, if I spent as much time on these posts as I do when writing and re-writing an article (or the amount of time I’m currently spending on my memoir) I would never have enough time to publish a single post.
But there is a certain heady joy in this type of writing too.
So, if you’re still a closeted-writer (or fill in the blank with chef, artist, etc.) I would suggest you have your own little ritual.
Baptise yourself in a public pool or your tub. Stand in your shower or plunge in a lake, but whatever ritual you choose, make sure to declare yourself a writer. Out loud. Exclaim it to the universe.
If you truly are a writer you must write as if your life depends on it.
Thank you Daniel.