Writing is not what you make it; it is what makes you. It is the screaming in your head, the strange beating of your heart, trying to tell you something. Sometimes it is only a whisper. It is waking up at 3 AM and jotting a few words down so you don’t forget them. It is too much to say and never enough time to say it. It is a million ideas and only two hands to get them all down fast enough before they fly away for someone else to grab onto. It is restless and demanding and tiring and imaginative and reckless and brave. Sometimes it is what you are too afraid to speak aloud. Sometimes it is the things you aren’t proud of. Sometimes it is what you wish it wasn’t. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, it is everything you hoped it would be. But more often than not, it is a violent ache in your rib that won’t subside.
However, it is what you make it on paper. It is how you explain it, how you express it. I think too many writers suffer under some grand illusion that you can simply jot down an idea and it will be something that will be remembered for decades, even centuries. The idea comes first; but it is your duty to shape it and mold it into something beautiful, something that demands to be remembered.
“Love hurts.” Fine, sometimes maybe it is just that simple. Maybe for some people, that’s enough. But where does it hurt? How does it hurt? How can you take an idea and recycle it and make it into something that is your own? How can you tell me all the ways in which love has hurt you, destroyed you, and shaped you into something different than you were before you felt it? How can you tell me about the way you felt that time when you climbed that ladder and there was no one to join you when you reached the top? When love had abandoned you and left you with a permanent reminder of what it means to taste loss? What can you teach me about suffering? About beauty? About the human condition? Can you tell me what loneliness feels like when you’ve wrapped yourself up in a tidy bow and no one stops to inquire what’s hiding underneath?
Readers want to know. They want to feel something. They want to yearn or smile or cry or laugh. It’s their job to buy the ticket but your duty to take them on the ride.
We would be serving an injustice to our readers if we were too lazy to explore. If we were too bored to bother to try to make sense of the most intense things we feel and experience. If we were too scared to dig up all that shit we try so hard to bury. If we were too weak to admit that sometimes, there is nothing anyone can say to take away certain pain. If we were too uninterested in getting to the core of our very being and what this writing thing is clawing at and trying to make of us. What it’s trying to make us say, and how it’s meant to be said, today. Now.
Clichés will be the death of this generation if we do not find new ways to say something, if we do not say anything at all but things that have been said before. If we say it all exactly as it has already been presented time and time again.
If you’re going to write something, make it worth reading twice. Make it worth remembering. Make it worth the reader’s time. Make it something they could never possibly forget because something about it shook their insides and altered their perception. Make them uncomfortable with the honesty hiding behind it. Change them, if not for a lifetime, then only for a moment.
Listen to the words calling you, begging you to play with them. Dress them in outfits they’ve never worn before. Don’t take the easy way out. Don’t use a lazy metaphor. Don’t think your readers won’t grasp certain things. Don’t doubt their intelligence. Don’t, for one line or second, think they won’t notice the lack of raw and utter truth.
And above all else, follow the craft, not the crowd.
Christina Hart is a self-published author with a BA in Creative Writing and English. Her fifth novel to date, Fresh Skin, is available now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers. Keep up with her on Twitter, @ChristinaKHart, or on Instagram, @christinakaylenhart.