Why do we write?
Certainly not because it’s easy. The only people who think writing is easy haven’t written much—or at all. No, most of us write either because we have something we need to say or because we have ideas we want to explore.
I like Hunter S. Thompson’s take on writing, which he shared in a letter that was subsequently published in a collection titled The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman.
“I find that by putting things in writing I can understand them and see them a little more objectively … For words are merely tools and if you use the right ones you can actually put even your life in order, if you don’t lie to yourself and use the wrong words.”
That thought is part of what prompted life coach Carol Delmonico and me, a writing coach, to create The Write Balance program where we use writing as a tool for self discovery. (Watch for our book coming soon.)
The other motivation for the program was the fact that through writing we can bypass our conscious minds and directly tap into our subconscious. Have you ever looked at a journal entry and wondered, “Where did that come from?” or thought, “I had no idea that’s how I really felt”? If you haven’t, I would recommend that you try writing a sloppy letter.
Google the phrase sloppy letter and you will find a series of diatribes against the practice of careless correspondence. So it will probably surprise you to learn that I advise all my writing coach clients to write sloppy letters. Not to their clients, of course, or even to their friends or relatives. I urge them to write me. “The sloppier, the better,” I tell them.
Why? Simple. Many writers, even those scribbling in journals, are so concerned about how their words sound that they stymie themselves. Ideas and creativity don’t flow in the face of self-criticism. All that scrutiny spawns doubt and eventually immobilization. The sloppy letter diffuses those self-imposed constraints.
The rules are simple. You can’t worry about spelling, grammar, language, sentence structure, repetition, logic or anything else. You just write as fast and as long as you want.
Some people finish this brain dump in less than an hour. Others work on it for months. Without exception they find the exercise liberating. After all, how can you sweat something that’s supposed to be sloppy?
Try it the next time you need to jumpstart—or restart—your own writing, or when you’re simply in the mood to take a trek through the dark, overgrown jungles of your mind. You just might surprise yourself with what you find.
And remember. If you need someone to provide encouragement, accountability and brainstorming, I’m just an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) away.