When it comes to the writing process, one shift in perspective can change everything.
If you have tried to write but feel stuck, or you keep writing words that fall flat, here’s a shift in approach that could change everything for you.
Instead of writing to an “audience,” or a “demographic” (as many will coach you to do) try imagining one specific reader. One familiar-faced, I-know-you-in-real-life kind of reader. Not a “compilation-of-some-people-you-know” kind of reader. Not an “imaginary-made-up-for-marketing-purposes-ideal-reader” kind of reader.
One person whose face you can picture and whose name you know and whose very being you adore.
Without even trying. You just love them.
Pick that person. Then write the book or the article or the poem to them.
Write it like a love letter.
There are several things this approach can do, if you give it a try:
First of all, it virtually eliminates writer’s block.
Writer’s block isn’t so much a writer’s block as it is life block. When you don’t know what to say, it’s usually because you don’t know what you think, what you believe, or how you feel. When your words fall flat on the page, it’s not because your grammar sucks. It’s because you have lost touch with yourself.
Nothing puts you back in touch with yourself faster than being with someone you love.
You family. Love. Pets. Kids. Friends.
When you’re with the people you love, you talk and listen and argue and gush and ask questions and laugh and say whatever comes to mind and guess at answers and edit as you go. You feel all of it, all the feelings—the grit and humor and transcendence and transformation and tension we so crave in a piece of writing.
If you’re stuck on a specific piece of writing, or stuck knowing you want to write but not knowing where to start, try writing it like a letter to someone you love.
Second, this approach makes your writing deeply personal and human.
Writing is relationship.
People forget this and reduce writing to this very forced, stilted, mechanical thing. Writers struggle the most when they’re trying to show up to the page all buttoned and laced—to make their sentences flow perfectly and their grammar impeccable instead of just getting it on the page.
Writing is conversation. Communication.
When you’re communicating with someone directly and personally, you don’t waste too much time worrying that what you say is the last and final word on something, or that it has to be spoken with perfect grammar. You look in the person’s eyes and talk to them like a human, take the feedback, and edit and change course as you go.
You may get hung up, but when you do, you adjust and keep things flowing.
No perfection needed.
Where does this idea of writing being some elite activity come from? Or that only certain people can be good at it?
Writing is so terribly and beautifully human.
No wonder people lose interest when they distill all of their humanity out of their writing.
Finally, this approach keeps you motivated and moving forward.
On those not-so-infrequent days when your “graceful-writer-in-the-coffee-shop, light-streaming-in-the-window” fantasies have been crushed once more, and you find yourself perusing Twitter for the second hour in a row instead of doing the writing you promised yourself you’d do, and then judging yourself for not sticking with your plan, and then berating yourself for judging yourself…
Love is motivating.
It will get your fingers moving when you feel frozen and terrified.
It will get your butt out of bed in the morning when you want to hit snooze for the fifth time. It will wake you up in the middle of the night when you suddenly have that dream that clarifies everything.
When you have something specific to say to someone you love, it feels dire, doesn’t it? Urgent. Secret. Life-or-death.
Pretend that’s the case with your writing. (Because it is).
Write it to the person you wish you could talk to, but can’t, for all kinds of terrible and ridiculous and totally practical reasons.
Write it to the person who holds your heart.
Write it to that part of yourself that you finally have compassion for.
To your kids.
To your parents.
To your partner.
Bring all the energy that you bring there, to your writing. All the passion. All the intensity. All the anger. All the fear. All the joy and gumption and tenacity and bravado and surrender. Bring it all.
See what happens.