The secret to writing is having something to say. Seems simple enough, obvious really, but you’d be surprised how many people either don’t realize this or willfully ignore it. I’ve met individuals who I thought were very talented writers that struggled for the lack of something to say.
There are two reasons for this, as I see it. First, there are people who mentally separate themselves from their audience, and therefore get caught up in a game of divination. Instead of writing about what they feel passionate about, what causes them to lose sleep at night, they attempt to pander to an audience.
Then there is fear. Let’s face it, every time we write something we expose a part of ourselves to total strangers, who may then judge us and criticize us. This can be scary. Because of fear of criticism, of not being popular, and since every opinion is controversial when you think on it, many writers adopt a bland writing style, an easy to forget writing style. The solution to this is simple: write about what really interests you, give your honest opinion, don’t care to be liked by everyone, and trust that you are not the only one like you.
This last point is very important because we are all human, so that no matter how strange you may think you are, you are not alone. If you like something, chances are that someone somewhere does too. I, for instance, happen to enjoy weird fiction. When most people see my collection of books and magazines, they shake their heads either in disbelief or disapproval. I’ve even had some people tell me, “You really should read more serious literature.” I know that what I enjoy reading is not mainstream, the subjects that truly interest me–what people have believed in throughout history, the extent of human awareness, ambitions independent of our given animal nature–are not normal, but this is alright; they work for me and put a smile on my face. More, I know that I am not alone because I’m human, and if I like something, other people will too. So the secret to writing truly is having something to say, and overcoming the fear that prevents us from saying it.
Now for a Columbo moment–God, I’m dating myself: “Just one more thing.” You have to say things to yourself first before you can say them to someone else. Many, if not most, people have had brilliant ideas, epiphanies, that when they rushed to share them with someone fell apart. This is not because some ideas are ineffable but because the people who had them had not fully grasped them in their own minds. This may be a prejudice of mine, but I believe that we cannot fully grasp and understand our own reality, our own minds, or the depths of our own emotions save through words. But words, like everything worthwhile in life, have to be earned, and the way we earn them is by taking these ideas in our heads and emotions in our hearts and putting them into words over and over again until we can convey their full meaning, until we can say exactly what we mean to say.
Then, and only then, are we ready to share our writings with other people. This doesn’t mean that people are going to like what we write–some will–or proclaim us amazing writers, but it does mean that we will say what we intend to say, maybe even what we need to say. This is a good thing.