Last week, in one of my online writing circles, a student said that she doesn’t feel like a writer because she doesn’t have a big vocabulary. I knew where she was coming from. As a young writer I thought that because I wasn’t a good speller that meant I couldn’t be a writer. It’s logical to assume that having a solid grasp on the mechanics of writing is necessary for an aspiring writer, but those things can be learned—and corrected by editors.
Creative writing is not about big words. It’s about finding your authentic voice, speaking on the page the way you’d speak to a trusted friend. It’s about connection. It’s about being willing to show up and bare your soul. It’s about having the courage to share from your heart. It’s about authentic self-expression. Writing is a calling, a commitment, and a path to freedom. It’s capable of transformation and healing.
Writing is not for the faint of heart. It takes bravery and grit to say, This is what happened. This is what I’ve learned. This is what I yearn for. This is what I’ve seen. This is what it feels like. This is my truth. This is my reckoning, my escape, my sanctuary, my flight. It’s redemptive. It’s holy. It’s sacred. And it’s scary. It’s about being willing to look fear in the eye and ask what it’s here to teach you. It’s about accepting yourself and your circumstances even when you hurt, and soothing your pain with compassion, tenderness, and love.
Writing makes life sweeter when life is good, and it makes life bearable during difficult times. Writing can save your life.
Yes, we use words, but writing is less about the words and more about what they point to.
Another student, in a different writing circle, has an impressive vocabulary. It’s not uncommon for him to use words I don’t know. (I enjoy this, because I love learning new words. When I read, especially on my Kindle, I enjoy looking up words I don’t know.) This student’s writing is wonderful, not because of his awe-inspiring language, however, but because his words reflect his way of speaking. That’s the key: to find your own voice, connected to your heart, and to speak from there.
The heart doesn’t need monumental words to express itself. It needs honest ones, vulnerable ones—majestic in their ability to capture truth. Many great writers use plain language. Most don’t have an editor’s knowledge of grammar (especially when first starting out). Some may not be great spellers. But this doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t write.
Thank God for editors. I adore mine. And over the years I’ve learned from her. My spelling and grammar have improved. But it’s the voice that matters, and the heart, along with the willingness to respond to the call to write. If you feel like you have to write or want to write, trust that feeling. That’s all you need to begin. A feeling. Lead with your heart. Creative writing is a labor of love, a tool for growth, and a map that may help you find your way home!
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