Are you squandering your writing ability?

I’ve been teaching my “Writing for Fun and Profit” series at two different colleges this fall. As often happens, students take the series to help them decide if they really want to write as much as they think they do.

I’ve been doing this series since 1996 and have watched hundreds of students blossom as they realize they not only want to write, but they want to write in a variety of venues–from short pieces to full-length books.

One of the underlying issues many students bring to class is the discounting of what they have to offer–the squandering of their writing ability. Notice I didn’t say talent (although talent is a nice thing to have). Writing is both art and skill and skills can be learned, given ability.

Writers set high standards regarding what counts as writing–what personal experiences should be drawn upon, what emotions can be shared, and what thoughts deserve deeper exploration.

My response: human experiences should be drawn upon–when your reader can relate to what you’re writing about, you create fans who want to read more from you.

Emotions aren’t good or bad, they just are. It’s the behavior the emotions motivate that determines good from bad. Anger is often thought of as a negative emotion, but it got the founders of MADD to do something positive–work on reducing drunk driving fatalities. Love is often thought of a positive emotion, but when someone’s murdered, among the first people authorities look toward  is those who loved the person–spouse, lover, etc.

Thoughts create possibilites. If no one thought of word processing software, we’d still be creating manuscripts on typewriters. Before dismissing a thought too quickly, give it some time to ruminate,  then consider capturing it in your writing.

My point is don’t squander your writing ability by thinking everything you write has to be profound, world-shattering, or the next literary masterpiece. Write so your readers can relate to your words.  The old saying, “Writers are observers of life,” still holds true. Live your life, observe life around you, and capture what you experience, feel, and think in your writing!

Happy writing!

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