Write. In the early evening, when the world slows down, when the cool night air brings nocturnal thoughts out of their daytime slumber into the dark wilderness of your mind, write. That is when you let your pen hunt. Let it sniff the spoor of an idea, track it, and run it down.
Enjoy the kill.
And late at night, as the city streets stretch and sigh from the day’s exertions, as the Earth desperately tries to catch its breath before the next day commences, pick up a pen and write.
And when it is bright outside, when life is lush with light, write. In busy coffee shops, on crowded trains, and at the small desk you occupy at work. Keep a pen handy. Have a piece of paper to write down that witty line, that clever turn of phrase, or that just-formed insight about life. It might be nothing at all when you look at it later. But it might be something. Not just something but something. That italicised something capable of selling copies. It may be the special something that connects with people you will never meet. Some of the best writings in the world began their lives on serviettes and nearly abandoned grocery slips.
Not all stories are born with silver spoons in their mouths.
When your overactive mind heats a vague concept, and wispy tendrils of a half-formed idea rise from the top of your head only to condense on the cold walls of rationality, when everything pops into sharp focus, that is when you should rush into the bathroom, look at Archimedes lying amidst the soapy bubbles and tell him, “Beat you to it.”
Eureka. That is when you write.
Because things will not always be clear or fresh. The munificence of clear thought and action is fleeting; the seasons of words come and go. There will come a time when nothing grows in the fields of your imagination. When stories refuse to take root despite your best attempts, when the words vanish, when it feels like you cannot write. That is when you take your pen and paper into the barren wastelands of your being and continue to plant thoughts about a time when the sun shone and the fields were gold.
Write about the things you did.
In time, the words will return. They will. But write.
During the dark times of your life, write. Every sadness, every defeat has a story to tell. Write. Maybe for yourself, just to describe the weight pressing down on your heart. Little by little, with each word, with each sentence, the load is lightened. All emotions, especially sadness and anger, manifest themselves as words. Poisonous words which slowly corrode the fibre of your being, words and phrases that turn friends into enemies and loves into losses. Through writing and vocalising the hurt the seeming absolute pain will be diminished. Word by word, sentence by sentence.
There is great joy and release in trapping sadness in paper; there is greater satisfaction in murdering anger in a story. There are no repercussions.
So write. It helps.
Write about things you love, it will help you to appreciate them. Write about things you hate, it will help you understand them better and, hopefully, hate them less because hate is often uninformed. It is a reflexive reaction to what is not properly understood.
Then write about things people love, about things they hate. Write about things they fear.
Be brave. Someone has to be. It might as well be you.
Do not be afraid to write from your own experiences. They are valid. In their folly, in their brilliance, in their embarrassing weakness, and in what you might perceive as their scarcity of diversity, there is bounty. Your experiences are truly valid. Only you could have had them in the way that you did. And, for good or ill, they affected you. They are valid. They are your truth. A writer is nothing without their truth. That truth is what reaches across time and space to someone, somewhere, and helps them to get through, to keep on keeping on, to laugh, to cry, to think deeply.
Find your truth.
And do not fear to trawl the backwaters of your mind for words and deeds you have not lived. Writing is about creation. Creation, after all, is about bringing into issue what has not existed before:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” ~ John 1: 1.
So create. Write. Shape the fathomless mass into whatever you want.
A diary entry about your day; a short story about a pregnant superhero who had unprotected sex; a long-form critique of a political idea, a music composition, a film, or a book, or a restaurant; a blog post about a cup of coffee; a novel where the villain wins—whatever you want.
In the beginning are the words. And the words are with you.
If you write for yourself write for yourself. Enjoy looking over your feelings and musings. Writing for yourself is as challenging as writing for the anonymous masses. Probably harder. Because you will know when you are lying, you will know when you are holding back, you will know when you are not being true.
The eternal audience of one always knows when you are not sharing your truth.
Find your truth. Share it with yourself.
If you write for others, write carefully. Written words are a call to action. You never know where your words will be blown, you never know where they will bloom. So be careful about who you invite to your shores.
This is not to say your words should frighten you or that you must doubt your writing forever. It does not mean you cannot write against the grain, that you should not hold unpopular opinions, or that all of your writing should be pacific, bland, or a card-carrying, party-worshiping member of the status quo.
All you need to remember when writing for other people is that once words get out they cannot be put back. Ever.
If you share your words be prepared for criticism. Accept it. If praise is given, accept it. If your words have no effect on the direction of the Earth’s spin then accept that too.
And write with pen and paper. The good, old-fashioned way. Let the words roll down your arm, to your hand, into the pen, and on to the paper. There is powerful, inexplicable magic in the physical act of writing.
If you write for leisure have fun. If you write for a living, have fun too. And good luck. Writers are the easiest people to dispossess. Their words, their experiences, and their truths are so easy to steal. Writers, like artists, like musicians, like anyone else who makes things that do not necessarily translate into immediate commercial value make life worth living for others. That is their value. Writers turn ordinary people into heroes and encourage us to aspire to be more, to do more; they turn heartaches into triumphs; they diligently chronicle our silliness, our ignorance, our genius; and, they slowly unravel the deep mysteries of the universe by voluntarily or accidentally experiencing the hardships that no one else is willing to bear.
Words are cheap. But they should not be. Words have meaning. Meaning has value. That value is not always realised.
So if you write to make ends meet, if you write with the hope of one day being published, your words bound in soft and hard covers, if you aspire to be in literary canons, then, good luck.
The grass is always grimmer on the writer’s side.
Even if you do not make it to the Dewey Decimal Classification of libraries, write. What makes a writer a writer is writing.
Write. To change, and to be changed.