Writer Red Smith famously penned, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” Although our modern world has moved on from typewriter times, I believe that the art of writing has not varied in its inherent nature.
I used to write a diary. During my emotional teenage years, my diary became my closest confidante. Every time life became too overwhelming, I would retreat to the solitude of my bedroom and bury myself in writing. It was like bleeding onto a page. I confessed things to the pages of my diary that I never breathed to a living soul.
My hand-crafted confessions were significant not to the world but to me. They were the usual teenage afflictions: love, infatuation, conflict, fear, shame, mistakes, prayers, hopes, dreams and half-baked conclusions to arguments conducted with actual living people.
No-one ever saw my diary. It was not written for an audience. And yet I was honing my craft during those years. I was working out how to select from an infinite buffet of vocabulary a meal that would awaken the senses and satisfy the soul.
This experience of writing from raw emotion taught me a valuable lesson in writing: it is much easier to write when you have something to say. I never had a problem writing my adolescent angst-fueled dramas in my diary because they were always on my mind, in my heart, straining to be released from their imprisonment. Writing was the universal key to freeing my inner turmoil.
I did not keep a diary forever. I began experimenting with the fusion of the written word with musical motifs. The first song I ever wrote was completed in secret and it will never see the light of day. Seriously, it was terrible. But I kept writing songs because I loved music. Now I “bleed” onto the piano. Writing music is easy. (Writing good music is much harder.)
My writing has now progressed to completing my first non-fiction work in Surviving Singledom. It is a book that was easy to write – not quick, mind you, but easy. I was driven to reach out to those Christians frustrated or marginalised by their singleness. I am also driven by my own experiences of singledom and in this I have plenty to say.
Interestingly, it was not the many years of writing practice that made the writing of this book so effortless. Nor was it any research trips or even the presence of good ideas that kept writer’s block at bay.
The simple fact that I was passionate about this topic made the book a breeze to write. Every time I sat down to work on a chapter, I would lose myself in the drive to get my message down before I forgot it. I typed in a fury of fear that I might never get to say everything I wanted to say to my audience.
Sometimes while writing I would disappear from this world for hours. I would come to the end of a chapter, look at the time, and go, “Wow! No wonder I’m hungry.” I don’t remember ever feeling stuck, staring at a blank page, willing the words to come. It was easy because I was, and still am, passionate about Christian singles having support and feeling connected in the midst of their singleness.
Red Smith’s reference to “opening a vein” for me speaks about the necessity for every writer to be prepared to “bleed” into their writing. We must write not only what we know but what we cannot leave unsaid, those things about which we are most passionate. If we allow our true selves to appear on the page before us, we will find that we always have plenty to say.