Getting words on paper hard

Published 12:43 am Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My friend, Sean, is becoming a writer. No, that’s not the way to put it, because I think you don’t so much “become a writer” as you find your writing voice. That is what is happening to Sean. He is discovering his voice, those inner whispers that become words on a page. The last few months I’ve shared a bit in that discovery, and it’s a joy to see the internal spark become a flame.

Of course, Sean, like all of us who have a love-hate relationship with putting our thoughts into written words, often expresses doubt about his ability. I know this feeling because I experience it almost every time I sit down to write. Will I have anything to say? Is what I write anything anyone wants to read? And on and on it goes — this eternal game of doubting and questioning then at last, when the conditions are right, allowing the words to flow.

As I read Sean’s writing, I remembered what I’d heard every good writer say — write what you know. That is his strength. Though he admits it is sometimes challenging, Sean gives voice to what he knows, what he carries in his heart — those experiences that make him who he is and his life as it is. Some of his first pieces appeared in the Star-News as he shared how it felt to live in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. He opened his heart and the emotions of that day poured onto the page with power. You felt what he felt — the confusion, the fear and the sadness. He expanded on that experience by writing about how his four-legged best friend, Maggie, and their routine grounded him during those desperate days. It was a good piece of writing.

About the time he completed it, he learned about a story call-out from Chicken Soup for the Soul. His story fit perfectly into the theme of the book and so he decided to submit it. It was no surprise to me when it was included in the book. Beneath the e-mail message he sent telling me about its acceptance, I sensed pleasure and a bit of excitement. But, like most writers I know, it was cautious excitement. I understood because it seems for some of us success and acceptance, even though it feels nice, brings questions. Was this a fluke, a lucky break? Can I write anything else worth publishing? So, I am being excited for him and letting everyone know about his piece appearing in a book; I have a feeling it won’t be his last published story. This one is in Chicken Soup for the Soul: What I Learned from the Dog – 101 stories about Life, Love and Lessons. His story is on page 45 under the title “Routine.”

Having the pleasure of reading Sean’s writing got me thinking about the courage it takes for any of us to seek and to find and to finally give birth to that something inside of us that wants so much to be born. It might be cooking, painting, or gardening, caring for children, building things, sharing ideas, dancing, singing, playing music, teaching, or sewing. It doesn’t matter what it is; what matters is that it makes us feel alive, opens something inside that brings light into our lives.

So, I am excited about my friend discovering his writing voice, about his bringing to life those internal whispers. I celebrate it because I think maybe, just maybe, we are all strands in this great web of life. And when one of us, like Sean, steps out courageously to share a part of himself, everyone grows a little. That is indeed cause for celebration.