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. That’s when you let your pen hunt. Let it sniff the spoor of an idea, track it, and bring it down.
Enjoy the kill.
Write late at night, when the Earth desperately tries to catch its breath before the next day commences. Pick up a pen and write.
When it’s bright outside, when life is lush with light, write. In busy cafés, 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 something, but something—that italicised something capable of selling copies. It just may be the special something that connects with people you’ll 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 reality, when everything pops into sharp focus, that’s when you write.
Because things won’t 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 once fertile fields of your imagination. When stories refuse to take root despite your best attempts, when the words vanish, when it feels like you can’t write, that’s 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, the things you felt, the things you did not do.
In time, the words will return.
During the dark times of your life, write. Every sadness, every defeat has a story to tell. Write, just to describe the weight pressing down on your heart, little by little, 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. Writing diminishes the seemingly absoluteness of the pain, word by word, sentence by sentence. There’s great joy and release in trapping sadness in paper; there’s even greater satisfaction in murdering anger in a story. There are no repercussions for stabbing a painful emotion to death with a pen.
Write about things you love; it will help you to appreciate them. Write about things that make you angry—run your rage ragged, from the blistering start of your essay to its smouldering end. After the fury has expended itself, when the tempest has died down, then it is time to start finding a solution. These are best found with a cool head.
Write about things people hate; write about things they fear.
Someone has to be. It might as well be you.
Don’t be afraid to write from your own experiences. In their folly, in their brilliance, in their embarrassing weakness, and in what you might perceive as their scarcity of thrill there is bounty. Your experiences are truly valid—only you could’ve had them in the way that you did. And, for good or ill, they affected you. 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 don’t fear to trawl the backwaters of your mind for words and deeds you haven’t lived. Writing is about creation. Creation is, after all, about bringing into existence with words what wasn’t there before.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.”—John 1: 1
Shape the fathomless mass into whatever you want.
A diary entry about your day (nice); a short story about a pregnant superhero who had unprotected sex (oh my); a long-form critique of a political idea, music composition, film, or book (dope); a whole blog post about a cup of tea—just write, man.
In the beginning are the words. And the words are with you.
If you write for yourself, then write for your damn self. Write recklessly. Write long, write hard. Writing for yourself is as challenging as writing for the anonymous masses. Probably harder. Because you will know when you’re lying, you’ll know when you’re holding back, you’ll know when you’re not being true.
The eternal audience of one always knows when you’re 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 and what you invite to your shores.
This doesn’t mean your words should frighten you, or that you must doubt your writing forever. It doesn’t mean you can’t write against the grain, that you shouldn’t 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 can’t be put back. Ever.
If you share your words be prepared for criticism, take it. If praise is given, accept it. If your words have no effect on the speed of the Earth’s spin, move on.
If you write for leisure have fun. If you write for a living, have fun too. And good luck. Writers are some of the easiest people to dispossess. Their words, experiences, and their truths are too easy to steal. Writers, like other artists, like anyone else who makes things that don’t necessarily translate into immediate commercial value, make life worth living for others. That’s their value. Writers turn ordinary people into heroes and encourage us to aspire to do more, to be more. They turn heartaches into triumphs. They diligently chronicle our silliness, our ignorance, and our genius. They slowly unravel the tangled mysteries of the universe by voluntarily or accidentally experiencing the hardships no one else is willing to bear. A writer’s words are cheap. But they shouldn’t be. Words have meaning. Meaning has value. That value isn’t always realised.
If you write to make ends meet, good luck. The grass is always grimmer on the writer’s side.
Even if you don’t make it to the Dewey Decimal Classification of libraries, write. What makes a writer a writer is writing. You’ve already won by the time you put pen to paper; everything from that point until the last full stop is just your victory lap. Whatever comes after that is the world slowly catching up to what you’ve always known—that the work has been done, that it will always be done.
You have created.
Oh! 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.
Write on your phone, sneakily. Type that thing on a keyboard, quickly. Go full hipster and use a typewriter. (In a coffee shop. Like, where other people can see you—the cojones!)
Read that, and steal from it. Read this, and imitate it. Read and write. Then write it and read it.
Write—through all things.
Write—through all times.
Write—to be changed.