I never considered myself to be a writer. For years, I would fruitlessly attempt to put down words to a page. I’m an actor at the Schuster Theatre – so words mean a lot to me – but I’ve always struggled to create from nothing.
Writing is difficult for a number of reasons – clarity of thought, appropriate use of punctuation, and putting unintelligible thoughts into words people will understand. But more than anything, writing demands a certain level of focus that our generation has largely disregarded. While sitting at home over winter break, I found myself revisiting the notion of writing (and focusing) more and more.
I sat down – blank page in front of me – and just began to type words. I typed and typed for what seemed like an eternity. Then I looked down at the clock. Only four minutes had passed. I gave up in frustration.
Yet, the very next day, I found myself drawn back to writing. Perhaps some of it had to do with the idealized sense of “being a writer” and having people read the words that I craft. Maybe I just needed an outlet to churn over the constant thoughts in my head. Regardless, I was determined to write – so I sat down once more at my laptop and opened up a blank word document. However, this time – I ignored the critic in my head telling me that what I was writing wasn’t good enough. I just wrote. When I came to a spot where I didn’t know what to write next, I’d just repeat the last sentence over and over again until something new came into my head – and then I’d write that. No filter, no censor, no redacting anything.
I wrote for about an hour straight. It felt shorter than the four-minutes I had tried the previous day. Yet, I still felt like it was garbage once I reread what I wrote. Nothing seemed to make sense. In fact, I’m sure that once I reread what I’m writing right now, none of it will make sense. But no worries – I’ll edit it. I’ll fix up the structure and the rhythm and the punctuation at another time.
Every writer who I’ve listened to has told me the same thing – if you want to be a good writer, you need to become a good reader. So, feeling invigorated by my new-found sense of accomplishment and creative energy I took the next step. I read. I read about four or five books on writing. I read about four of five novels from authors I enjoy (read: Chuck Palahniuk). I read newspapers and articles online and blogs and everything I could get my hands on (I also really got into audiobooks, but that’s a story for another time).
Over break, I attended a theatre festival where I competed as Zak Westfall’s scene partner for an acting competition. There were a number of workshops for theatre technicians, actors, directors and writers. Despite the fact that I was there for performance, I kept attending the writing workshops. If you understand how to write and how to read, you’ll be better prepared for whatever you want to do: doctor, lawyer, surgeon, fisherman, etc.
If there’s one thing I learned from my experience over break, it’s that I am a writer. I’m not the best writer, but I’ll get better. The only thing to do is keep writing; keep reading; keep editing.