Write Like Nobody Is Reading

Monday 6 March 2017

H A P P Y  M O N D A Y !

No I don't want any one to get carried away but this is my third Monday morning post in a row... it's practically regular feature again right? I've almost definitely jinxed it now but for now lets enjoy the momentum that comes from writing regularly.

And if there is anything I'm doing regularly at the moment it's writing. In fact in the past month or so I've probably done more writing than I did in all of 2016. And the best part is that a good old chunk of that has been paid work! But writing regularly hasn't come easily.

At the beginning of this year I realised that I'd lost my voice. Not only with my blog but also in my theatre writing. I was out of practice with writing scripts - especially ones that were to be performed by me, and I'd become so concerned with who would be reading or watching what I was writing that I was trying to write from the outside in. With my blog and everything else. I was trying to write from the point of view of a reader or an audience member getting enjoyment out of it, rather than what felt real and natural to me.

Now that might not sound like a bad thing, especially when you're being paid to effectively entertain somebody but for me, trying to write this way was getting me all muddled up. You know when you write something and it feels so try hard you just cringe? Nearly every word from my finger tips felt that way. Whether it was for a blog post, for a script and even in my journal.

I'd stopped writing for me. I was always writing for somebody else, and you could tell. When I read my words back they felt empty. And they were. Because I was writing from outside myself, I wasn't putting any of myself into it. 

I needed to change my mindset. I thought back to when this blog came naturally to me, to writing my first show, to scribbling children's stories in my notebook on the train, and I realised the reason they all came so easily is because I was writing like nobody was reading. Sometimes people genuinely weren't reading, other times I was writing first and thinking about an audience later, after the writing was done.  And I wanted to get back to that. As counterproductive as it sounded. I wanted to go back to a time, when I was unaware that anyone was reading.

But I couldn't even write in my journal without feeling like one day somebody might read it (I have this hope that my distant future relatives may one day get to know me by stumbling across a box of notebooks in their attic). I'd come to my notebook and worry about making it pretty, the language and they layout. I needed a simpler writing process.

So I went to Erica Midkiff's website I downloaded her introduction to Intentional Writing and came up with my own practice.

In a nutshell writing intentionally is writing in a stream of consciousness style. Sometimes you might start with a prompt other times you might just get everything out of your head and on to a page.  You set yourself a timer in a calm environment and you write with no pressure at all. 

I set  my timer for 10 minutes (although always reset it at least twice), my essential diffuser makes the room smell like lavendar, and my lights are turned down low. I type into the same document so that my words keep up with my mind, and I just write. I normally start with the same 'Ok I'm sat in my living room, here's what I'm thinking about' and sometimes I don't get any further, other times I start off in one point and end up in a completely different place. I might come up with blog post ideas, or I might end up working through that chunk of script that I've been wrestling with, but most importantly I'm always writing authentically. In my own words.

I get a lot from these sessions. Inspiration and ideas, and a sense of clarity about what might be bothering me or needs to be worked on, but the biggest difference I've seen in the past couple of weeks is how much easier it has made writing everything else. The words come more freely, from a real place. Sure they are more structured than in my private document and they have more purpose but they come from the same place.

They come from me, and honestly I feel like I'm writing like nobody is reading.

And that isn't meant as an insult to you, I want you to be hear, I want you to read, but I want you to be able to read something real - otherwise what is the point? Why try and write for a hundred people, if it means nothing to anybody? Why try to write a show that I have no investment in? 

The truth is, when we write like nobody is reading, we are doing the best thing for those who are out there soaking up our words, because we are giving them something real. We're reaching the people we are supposed to reach. Sure that might mean we're never going to reach 'peak influencer' level or fill out auditoriums, but the value is just as great.

I feel like this might be the oppoosite advice to anything else you've ever heard, but if you find your writing feels unnatural, then stop considering your audience, and write like nobody is reading, because I don't want to hear what you think I want to hear, I want to hear YOU x

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