if you can think, you can write

Before writing is an art form, it’s a thought that’s burning to be expressed.

We write because we want to say something: “We need milk and licorice sticks” or “I’m having fun in Barbados. Wish you were here.” The thought may be about a feeling or a wish or an instruction or all three. It may be complex, requiring a furrowed brow and pacing or lying in a hammock and looking at the sky in order to clarify.

I see people run into trouble with their writing when a project is considered important enough to trigger the “I’m not a writer” alarm. A “real” writer would be able to write this article or this sales page or this book without collapsing into worry or procrastination or discombobulation, without being stumped about how to start or how to continue.

Fear has gotten in the way of thinking. That’s all. There’s an easy way out.

If you feel an inner shakiness or the first hint of a silent scream, if your fingers freeze above the keyboard or your mind goes blank, your attention is probably on fear in some way. A way out of fear and back to writing is to refocus on what you want to write about, to think about the topic and forget about the words.

Ask yourself why you care about what you’re trying to write (if you didn’t care, the “I’m not a writer” alarm wouldn’t have gone off). Put the pen down or take your hands away from the keyboard and think about what you want to say. Leave writing out of it for now. Just ponder. Talk to yourself in your mind. See how clear and excited you can get about your ideas. Imagine telling those ideas to the person or people you want to help.

Words will form. When they do, lift your hands and write.

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I’ve been amazed many times by the beautiful flow of words that pours out when people shift their focus from “I can’t write this” to “What do I think about this?” When they let go of making words and only try to make clear thoughts, the words take care of themselves.

If the thought is important to you and allowed to rule, words will come to pay homage. The writing will serve the thought … which is what writing does best.

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Related reading: time out, how to fall in love with yourself

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