Wise Words from Gloria Steinem: “I Do Not Like to Write. I Like to Have Written.”

May 3, 2010

Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.
• Ray Bradbury

Don’t you just know what Ms. Steinem means? I like to write and I feel her pain. It’s one thing to think about getting started writing when you enjoy putting words together and have plenty to say. It’s another to actually have to do it. And if you don’t like to write and don’t know what you want to say, well, it’s agony, right?

This is why I don’t like writing letters of recommendation without the input of the person who needs the letter—preferably right there in person helping me, but at least having given me some words on paper to let me know what direction I need to head in and what I need to say to help them with the job search process. I seldom begin writing anything without looking for information and inspiration first. And honestly, I have little interest in looking for things that should have been provided by the person who actually needs the letter.

But I digress. Rants are always delightfully diverting, aren’t they? If you’re having trouble writing, consider ranting about something to help get the words flowing out your fingertips. Bradbury is right: whatever it is you’re writing about has to be something you care about. Otherwise, every word is dragged from your brain reluctantly, refusing to line up with the others, floppy and lopsided, making little sense.

Unfortunately, caring and love are seldom words that apply to any kind of writing done for school. Mostly, in school, the two words “have to” are the likeliest motivation. If do-we-hafta-writing is the only kind you’ve ever done, you’ve never really written. You’ve never experienced the joy of capturing something meaningful to you that will live forever because you’ve corralled your thoughts instead of loosing them into the wilds as spoken words.

There are many things that stop people from capturing their thoughts in writing: spelling, semi-colons, dangling participles, commas, and a host of other teacher-imposed warnings that keep a person from writing because s/he is afraid s/he’ll do it wrong. Don’t be afraid. Write. Edit later. Spell a word like you think it’s spelled. Ignore the red squiggly underlining until later. Ignore the green stuff letting you know that something is wrong (sometimes it isn’t even wrong). Don’t worry about being wrong. Just write.

Sylvia Plath wrote that “everything in life is writable about if you have the ongoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.” She went on to say that “the worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” If you are passionate about something, you probably have something to say about it. Don’t doubt it.

If you could get college credit for writing about anything in the universe, what would you write about? Why?

I want to write about sharks. Big ones with big teeth! But I don’t want to ever be in the water with one.
• Second grader, 2010

I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.
• James Michener


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