I recently signed up for a writing course, and shared with a few friends that I was thinking of writing online.
“Huh, that’s interesting. What are you going to write about?”
I’ve gotten some version of that response from everyone I’ve mentioned it to, and it’s a good question. Finding the answer is what held me back for 9 months from when I decided it was something I should pursue to taking the first steps.
A friend said something to me a while back that stuck with me. “I firmly believe that every person on the planet has something unique and special to contribute to the world.” I thought it was a nice sentiment but I wasn’t sure it was for me. But I trust them, so I tried it on, like a pair of slacks at a department store. That’s when it clicked. Once I started to use that framing as a lens to view myself and the world, my perception changed.
• What is the unique value that this person brings to the world?
• What are my unique attributes?
Answering those questions requires a lot of self reflection. About where you draw energy. What excites you. But also the elements of that excitement that are unique to you. I love a good Turkey BLT on toasted sourdough, but I wouldn’t consider that a unique attribute or value I bring to the world. Spending time reflecting on what energizes me and what about that is unique to me brought clarity around what I value about writing as a communication tool.
“Rushing to notice never works,– Verlyn Klinkenborg, Several Short Sentences About Writing
Nor does trying to notice.
Attention requires a cunning passivity.”
So what is the fundamental reason to write?
To communicate your own vantage point; cutting out a slice of your own view on the world, and offering it as a lens for someone else to take a momentary glance.
For the average person, this point is usually more visible in other art forms. Everyone can talk about the way certain music makes them feel. We’re all familiar with the unique visual + storytelling styles of studios like Disney and directors like Wes Anderson. But for many people (including me) that never saw writing as their own craft, the magic of its ability to transform, enlighten, and expand had been obscured from view.
“We write for the same reason that we walk, talk, climb mountains or swim the oceans — because we can. We have some impulse within us that makes us want to explain ourselves to other human beings. That’s why we paint, that’s why we dare to love someone- because we have the impulse to explain who we are. Not just how tall we are, or thin… but who we are internally… perhaps even spiritually. There’s something, which impels us to show our inner-souls. The more courageous we are, the more we succeed in explaining what we know.”– Maya Angelou
As to what I’ll write about:
In reflecting on the places where I draw energy & find curiosity when others don’t, I’ve found that I tend to view everything around me as a system.
Viewing problems as systems makes them approachable. A system may be complex, but with the right insight, it is knowable. And more than anything, I like understanding systems, and using knowledge derived from a familiar system to understand a new one. That may sound like a broad & ambiguous topic, but I’m sure the path to specificity will illuminate as I walk it.