In the season of giving, remember that your writing is a gift.
Earlier this week, my mom entreated me to keep my Christmas shopping in check. She says I go overboard each year. She says none of us needs anything, and she’s right. I don’t think I go that crazy, but I do love giving gifts. Truth is, I’m much better at giving gifts than I am at receiving them. I always feel self-conscious when I’m opening a gift.
Watching someone else open a gift I’ve chosen for them is a completely different story. Like a child on Christmas Eve, I am filled with an almost giddy sense of anticipation. I just cannot wait for them to see. And then I can’t wait to tell the story behind the gift – why I chose it, where I found it, and maybe a funny anecdote about the process of acquiring it.
I especially love searching for and curating unique collections of small treasures. When I was a kid, my favorite part of Christmas was pulling a seemingly endless succession of tiny toys, trinkets, and treats out of my stocking. Santa wrapped almost every item, making the process a long, slow, delicious extravaganza of miniature delights.
A gift, big or small, is an expression of our feelings. It helps us to say the things that might be difficult, awkward, or scary to say out loud. Like a small boy scuffing his shoes in the dirt and thrusting a flower at a girl without looking her in the eye, we use gifts to bridge the gap between what we want to say and what we’re able to say. A gift can say I love you or I’m sorry or I’m so proud of you.
Our writing often serves a similar purpose. In a very literal sense, I used to turn to writing when I felt I could not speak openly with someone. Whether I was facing a conflict or simply having trouble articulating deep emotions, writing gave me the means to share thoughts that would otherwise have remained hidden. Though I almost never need to lean on writing this way any more, I still write to express my feelings. Whether it’s a journal entry, blog post, essay, or story, each piece of writing is an attempt to say something, a bid to give the reader a glimpse into my heart and a chance to see the world through my eyes.
When you write, it’s like wrapping a little piece of yourself in words and saying, “Here, I made this for you.”
Sometimes giving the gift of your writing can be scary. What if the person doesn’t like it? What if it makes them uncomfortable? But, what if it says exactly what you couldn’t say out loud? Or, what if – though you never know it – your words provide someone with a moment of clarity, hope, or relief?
And, remember, sometimes less is more. Your gift of words doesn’t have to be extravagant. Sometimes a poem touches the heart more deeply than a novel. Sometimes a heartfelt essay will better suit than a short story. Though you may be working on your “Big Gift” – your opus, so to speak – don’t undervalue your shorter pieces of writing. Like the toys and treasures in a Christmas stocking, their capacity for bringing joy cannot be measured by their size.
What I’m Writing:
Ahhh, the holidays – a magical season of sparkling and shining and an horde of extra items on your To Do list. With all the added hustle and bustle that comes with December, I’m already looking forward to the comparative quiet of January. Still, despite all the added holiday responsibilities – shopping, shipping, decorating, socializing, etc. – I’m still finding ways to sneak a little writing in here and there.
There are, of course, my morning pages. Though I’m unable to maintain a daily practice, I curl up with that notebook and pen as often as I can. I don’t beat myself up if a miss a day (or two, or ten). I’m just grateful each time I find a pocket of time that allows me to indulge in my journaling habit.
I’m also taking time, during this overwhelming time of year, to acknowledge just how much work I’ve done over the course of the year. It’s easy to get down on yourself when you hit a patch of low productivity due to life’s many interruptions. Instead, take a moment to consider everything you have accomplished. For instance, last week’s weekend edition was my 200th post here on Live to Write – Write to Live. That made me smile. It also reminded me how many small efforts eventually add up to big results.
Are you overlooking any seemingly small accomplishments in your writing life? I bet you are.
What I’m Reading:
This week, I wanted to share a non-traditional read with you. It’s a book called Picture This and it’s a collaboration between writer and cartoonist Lynda Barry and watercolorist Kevin Kawula. It features a baffling but charming array of characters including The Near-Sighted Monkey, The Magic Cephalopod, The Heavenly Supernatural Animal, and two girls names Marlys and Arna. It is part memoir, part comic, and part distillation of Barry’s very popular drawing workshops.
I discovered Barry via a Brainpicker blog post about her newest book, Syllabus. Picture This is one of two books I requested from my local library consortium. Now that I’ve read it, I can’t wait for the second book to arrive.
Although words may be our primary tool for creative expression, it can be inspiring and enlightening to step outside the world of letters and into the world of images. Sometimes, exchanging the alphabet for some scribbles and smears can jump start our creativity and coax our reluctant muse out to play. Barry’s words and pictures invite you to toss away your inhibitions, exile your inner critic, and just have fun. We need to do the same with our writing, but if you’re stuck there, learning to let go while drawing may be the perfect way to catapult yourself out of that ditch without the pressure of working with words.
And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:
- James Baldwin on the Creative Process and the Artist’s Responsibility to Society via @brainpicker
- 6 Lessons Hemingway (& Others) Can Teach Us About Being a Writer by @BrianKelms via @WritersDigest
- Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love to Write by @RachelSGrate via @micnews
- How the Strand [Bookstore] Keeps Going in the Age of Amazon by Christopher Bonanos via @vulture
- Stop Perfectionism with MVPs by Allison Stadd via @99u
- The Art of Social Media for Writers via @futureofink
- [Infographic] What to post & when to post it on 9 important social networks by @chrisrobley
- How To Make an Impact in What Matters Most to You by Scott Belsky via @99u
- 7 Steps to Living a Bill Murray Life via @vulture
Finally, a quote for the week:
I hope you are enjoying the happy chaos of the season and I hope you take time out here and there to indulge your muse and acknowledge all the small creative works you do. Each one matters.
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally – trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.