The Power of Being Present in Your Writing

As we’ve been thinking about how we’ve grown as writers this semester, it got me thinking a lot about my style of writing, which got me thinking about the words that I use. In class, we recently came upon this online writing tool that basically deconstructs your writing for you and tells you all of the things you need to watch out for. It’s kinda like going to the doctor, but for writing instead. Surprise surprise, I got “flabby” (they use weight terms) for most of my paragraphs, save for one random “fit and trim”. I knew that it was going to happen. For me, writing was sort of a way for me to blab about whatever first came into my mind. Thinking about what I wanted to write was always so much work for me. No wonder I wasn’t particularly fond of academic papers. They never understood why my writing was so confused and broad.

But through this class, I’ve had the privilege of being exposed to different types of advice and ideas about writing from authors of different fields and experiences. Through peer revising, I started to realize that I had to take my writing seriously. Now I’ve always treated writing with importance, but if I speak with all honesty, I would never really think while I was writing. I would never stop to ask myself “What am I trying to really say here?”. Instead, I would mindlessly type the first thing that came to mind for the sake of filling up space and getting a grade. I took Ann Lamott’s “Shitty First Drafts” to heart (even before I read it) and convinced myself that it was okay to be a bad writer because everybody’s writing was bad in a first draft. It just happened to be that most of my academic papers were first drafts.

I’m trying to be mindful, not mindless

It’s kind of a dangerous mentality. On one side, you’re giving yourself the freedom to write without letting the critical voices get to your head. But it also allows for you to turn in and have people read whatever crap you wrote and then reason with yourself that it’s okay because “all writing starts out bad”. I didn’t want to give myself the opportunity to even change as a writer because that would take work, effort, and the possibility or risk of failure: three things that are incredibly difficult for me to overcome. I always want the easy side of things. The road less traveled is the road I avoid the most. I never push myself or challenge myself to become better in something because I convince myself that “this is just who I am, and I can’t change the fact that I’m a bad writer”. But I’m slowly starting to realize that writing is a fluid skill that is always up for improvement, as with everything else in life. It’s something that’s important to me, and I see it’s power and influence through viral articles, academic papers, and the like.

If the power of the written word is great, and it is something I greatly admire and appreciate, don’t I owe to myself to at least try?

That’s what I’ve thinking about. Isn’t it funny? I’ve actually been thinking about the words I use when I write. I’ve started thinking about why my sentences tend to sound awkward, and why I use certain words more than others. By taking a moment to just think, my attitude about writing greatly changes as well as the process itself. I take it more seriously, therefore creating better quality work.

The power of being present is something that I greatly strive to achieve. In a culture where it’s so easy to be passive and hide behind all our technology, we lose the chance to be present as active participants in our own writing and lives. I’ve been letting my “I don’t have time and I don’t care and I’m not good at it originally so why even bother” attitude stink up my writing and it’s time for me to let it go.

If the attitude changes, perhaps the writing will change as well. One can only hope.

2 thoughts to “The Power of Being Present in Your Writing”

  1. First, I like the graphic in your blog post.

    That’s interesting that you just type whatever is on your mind when it comes to first drafts. It’s something that I do too, but I also like outlining a bit of what I’m going to say. Also, a part of me is self conscious about people reading a true “shitty first draft.”

    I’m surprised that you say you have the attitude of “I don’t have time and I don’t care and I’m not good at it originally so why even bother” because you are pursuing a minor in writing (and majoring in English? I think I don’t exactly remember). But it just shows that as minors, we still struggle to write sometimes. Maybe a reason why people shy away from challenging is not only because of fear of failure but also the lack of time. It’s easy to go back to the familiar because we can finish the assignment quicker.

    I’m happy that you have taken a new approach to writing! By doing this, you are already heading off on the road less traveled.

  2. I’m very much with you regarding spewing my thoughts onto a Word document when I’m trying to write a first draft. My first drafts are always Frankenstein pieces – I can reread them a few days later and tell when I was listening to different kinds of music, where I was when I was writing, who I was with, and other seemingly odd details.

    I do believe that if you change your attitude about writing, your writing will, in turn, change. If you go into a piece thinking how much you’re going to hate it or how much of your time it will waste, then you WILL hate it and it WILL waste your time. I know it’s hard to go through such a shift, however – so maybe change the physicality of the way you write. Go somewhere new, listen to different music, or even try writing by hand. If you couple attitude change with a different kind of change, maybe you won’t even notice the former.

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