Writing, much like any other aspects of life, is an expression of who we are. Hence we can actually treat writing as a training ground for us to be honest about what’s happening within.
I truly believe it and the other night was a beautiful reinforcement to this.
I attended a talk by the founder of an award-winning online social movement Coin a Chance, Hanny Kusumawati (aka @beradadisini). Hanny brought up a principle in writing that has also been crucial to me.
“There are many styles in writing, but really, there is only one way to write, and that is by being honest,” she said.
There is no other writer with style like ours. We are unique in our writing as we are as human being. The best way to write is to write with our own style. The best way to write is to listen to what is in our head and pour it into writing without any hesitation.
“Write first, keep writing what’s in your head, don’t stop.
“We can worry about the other stuff, like plot, grammar, characters, etc, later in the editing process.”
We then did three three-minute exercises on writing, which I would invite you to try.
First, it’s about original details. Pick an object and write — without stopping — as much details as possible about it. This is what I wrote that night:
The lamps. Hanging right in front of me, slightly above. Silver with yellow-ish light. If we pay closer attention to it, there is one big lamp, surrounded by smaller ones.
At first I thought there were only five lamps, but a closer look would reveal there are two more, slightly hidden. Hanging on a black string. They are not that bright, swallowed by the other surrounding lights. Not as blinding, but still cool as accessories to the room. It does not really make the room brighter, except at exactly where it was. (And time was up as I finished that sentence).
Second, it’s about working from memories. Pick an object and write what it reminds you of. Three minutes. Go:
The last time I noticed this type of lamp was at a meditation retreat several years ago. My mind then jumped into something completely different. I remember my love for taking photographs of lamps and reflections, in all shapes and forms. Low light photography and reflections of mirrors, from building, structures, and so on, wherever it may be.
I looked to my left and saw the very reflection of those lamps in the mirror. A different angle of the same object. I remember taking pictures with my friends at her campus in Paris. A huge silver shining ball. That was so fun.
The ball was of three meters in height. We experimented with distance. What if the camera is close to the ball and we are further away. What if one of us is closer to the ball than the other. What if one is standing on the left, and the other on the right corner of the camera lens.
Reflection is so interesting. It provides a distortion — often more interesting than the original! (Time was up).
You wouldn’t believe what came up from the audience. It is evident that we are all writers. Beautiful, with a variety of styles. Mine feels rather factual. But I was just getting warmed up.
Third exercise: use object (I am a…) and write how it feels to be that object. This is mine:
I am but letters “F.O.S.S.I.L” — You look at me but you are not really looking at me. You are looking at me and you remember the remains of animals and plants from million years ago, turning into coals and oil; being put in the museum for display, lab for study and books to read.
You look at me and you remember, well, bags.
You look at me but you’re not really looking at me. I am but a six-letter word, written in black. I am written in ALL CAPS.
But obviously, it is still not loud enough for you.
I was astounded. I have no idea how it came about. The exercise reminds us how rich our mind is. All we need to do is put our thoughts in writing, without any self-censorship.
When we practice this, we will become a better writer (i.e. more comfortable and precise in writing with our own style). Then, it will have a trickle down effect. We will become more comfortable with ourselves. We will have the guts to express ourselves, to say what we want to say, and be how we really are.
Writing for writing’s sake, for nothing but honest self-expression, is powerful and healing. Let’s not get bogged down with too much self-editing and self-judgement. Editing will have its own time, later in the process. For now, just lay your fingers comfortably on the keyboard or pick a pen, and write away. You’ll be amazed.
First photo was taken by Ollie. Second photo was taken by me.