Linda Joy Myers, President & Founder of NAMW shares this commentary on writing in honor of the inaugural National Day on Writing. Join in on this National celebration by posting your writing sample by clicking on the “Leave a Comment” button located just above this paragraph. You can also listen to Linda share her thoughts on this historic day!
Most people want to leave a legacy for family or capture important memories and reminiscences, but some kind of inner voice stops them before they get started. These people write to me saying, “I got an idea to write about times gone by, but I don’t know where to start.” Or they say, “I want to let my children and grandchildren know about where they come from…”
And then they say, “But I’m not really a writer.” Sigh.
I’m always excited to hear from people like this because it means they are getting really close to writing—they’re preparing to write and need some permission, encouragement, and even skill building. I tell them this, “You are already a writer. You’ve been keeping a journal for years, you write great letters and emails, and you have collected the family photos and made little stories. You have already begun.”
Here at the National Association of Writers, most of the people that join us for a workshop, free teleseminar, or who become members are all people, perhaps like you, who want to write, who hear that little voice whispering in their ear to start writing. You only need to know two things:
- Today is the day to begin! Just pick up your pen, or open a new page on your computer, and start throwing words down, randomly. Don’t be afraid to make a mess, to write badly, or even not to make much sense. You do not have to start at the “beginning,” because most of us don’t even know where that is. Just think of some memories that you’ve always had and want to share and savor. Think about colors and sounds, textures and how you felt.
- You can write very short pieces, even just a page. You can write a journal entry as a way to begin, or a poem. Use photos to stimulate your memories and imagination. Talk to relatives and find out what they remember. This can be fun!
- Oh well, one more thing. Most people also have a little voice of doubt and worry—what if my family doesn’t agree with what I say; what if I make people mad; what if I find out I can’t write. Put the “what-ifs” aside. Don’t show your family if you are worried about what they’ll say. Make it your secret project. Write for yourself first, and build up your story list. You have so much that you know, have experienced, seen, tasted and felt. Capture it in word pictures and put it on the page!
And, have fun! Writing is a way to know ourselves better, to live twice, to savor all over again the life we are living and have lived. It can also be healing, inspiring, and spiritually uplifting. Begin writing today!
I started writing memories two years and four months ago, and the process has been nothing but enjoyable. Frustrating at times, of course!, but always enlightening in some way or other. It’s a shame we (I include myself) don’t make it part of our personal entertainment space the way we do for television and reading, for instance. National Day on Writing may help bring this to mind for more people.
Writing about my life has changed it for the better. My six-word memoir is “I live to write about life.” Continual writing, about my life and the process of writing is my enduring passion. I’m grateful for this national recognition and hope that it will encourage people to value the act of writing even more.
To paraphrase an old favorite melody:
I’d like to teach the world to WRITE
in perfect harmony.
I’d like to hold it in my arms,
and keep it company.
Let’s all get those fingers moving and submit a story.
Writing memoir and poetry based on personal and family stories have occupied my life for the past 3 years. Writing about past events, not necessarily painful ones, I find takes the energy off them so I can move on to other creative pursuits. I love it and am so happy to see a National Day on Writing to encourage everyone to pick up a pen.
It’s taken a while for me to realize that I am a writer. I kept getting in my own way for so long. There was always some kind of excuse. The days I ignore those excuses and Just Write are the most fulfilling. How great that there is a National Day on Writing to remind us all how important Writing is for our collective soul!
Writing memoir is both a joy and a struggle. The process of admitting those regrets you are ashamed of is the first big step. Putting them in print is a lesson in courage, as is that moment when you have to share with your writing group those events in your life you’d like to forget ever happened. But once you do that–you discover that everyone still likes and respects for who you are now. Once you do that you can move on to write the rest. And as always, the women in my group encourage me to do the thing I think I cannot do, but know I must.