After taking orders, flashing plastic smiles and making small talk all day, I was more than ready to crawl into bed by the time I got home. My once bright eyes had begun to droop hours ago and my situational awareness had somehow slipped from a steady 9 to somewhere near a shaky 3.5. The day reminded me a bit of a bad song- you know, the type that makes you wonder if it will ever end. And it still wasn’t finished. I needed to write.
The first thing I did was change out of my stained work uniform. I picked up my warmest pair of sweatpants, thought for a moment, and slowly set them down. Before I knew it, I had slipped into a small red dress- one that I had been saving for a special occasion. I deftly twisted my hair into some halfhearted attempt at an up-do. I was between my 17th- and 23rd bobby pin when I realized that I was on the brink of brilliance. Writing needed to be treated more like a special event and less like a chore. I poured myself a wine glass full of water and grabbed my laptop, ready to amend my personal rules on writing.
Deshka’s Rules for Writing
1. Treat writing more like a special event and less like a chore.
2. Be greedy. Throughout the day people scatter bits of themselves around. A wry smile, a hidden glance, the anxious touch of two people holding hands for the first time- observe these bits of humanity, remember them and keep them. Working in a restaurant I meet so many different kinds of people- every day I try to notice and “take” three things with me. Today? The way my manager’s usually harsh face took on a edge of softness when she mentioned her lover, the self-conscious eyes of a shy gentleman after I told him I liked his tie, and finally, the way my co-worker laughs too often and too loudly, reminding me of cheap perfume being sprayed around some sort of decay in a feeble attempt to disguise it.
3. Silence. Maybe this is nothing more than personal preference- but if you ask me, writing should be done in silence. Usually my thoughts bounce around a bit before fully developing and the only way I can listen to them, feel them, guide them, is if I am both still and silent.
4. Don’t try too hard. The more I worry about my writing, the less I want to write. I feel like it’s healthy to express yourself without expectation and this allows creativity to blossom. The most disappointing and pretentious writing I have ever done (and if you ask me, the two go hand in hand) was when I felt like I had someone to impress and something to prove. I was trying way too hard.
5. Read. I find that reading helps me to view my life through the lenses of a storyteller. Suddenly, the old cashier who winks and rasps “Have a great day!” through broken teeth is something almost enchanting- a part of a story. When I go to write, these characters come to mind.
6. Use words you understand. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t develop your vocabulary but you should definitely use a new word at least three times in normal conversation before you try to write with it. This helps you get a better understanding for how the word feels. Does it feel awkward when you’re using it? Then drop it. If you can’t comfortably use it in conversation, then it’s unlikely that people will feel comfortable reading it.
7. Be brave. Sometimes I don’t want to write because I have emotional boulders I am trying to avoid. I know that as soon as I go to write, these boulders will be painfully obvious, both to me and the reader. Writing is a very personal thing and sometimes that’s terrifying. However, I can assure you of this- it feels a lot better to crack your heart open and spill it on a page than it does to bury it in fear.
8. Don’t compare. As soon as you start to compare your writing to the writing of others (and let’s be honest, usually you choose people who are beyond incredible) the less you feel like writing. You start out thinking “My stuff sucks, I need to write more like this.” and you end with “I could never write like this.” This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t appreciate good writing or aspire to be a better writer. That is all YES. Comparing (with an edge of masochistic browbeating), that’s a no.
9. Equal representation for your emotions. Don’t just write about things that are sad. It’s easy for me to write about things that upset me or internal struggles that I wrestle with. It’s healthy for me to write about things that make me happy. Don’t avoid or hide from any of your emotions- express and acknowledge them all! The good, the bad, the ugly, and the in-between.
10. Practice empathy. Seeing from other people’s point of view not only makes you a better person but a better writer as well. Making a conscious effort to understand the thought processes, feelings, struggles and views of someone who you disagree with will help you later on, when you want to create a character who doesn’t think like you.
11. Make your own rules. Really, these are just guidelines that help me! It’s your life. I don’t know your story, your struggle, or how much milk you like in your cereal. I don’t know you at all. But you do. This is your story- and it’s up to you to find out how to tell it best.
19 year old poet, web-designer, garage saleswoman, and part-time gypsy, Deshka Rae can't be seen right now, but one can imagine her draped over a chair somewhere, eating Chinese takeout and dreaming with her eyes wide open. A lover of antiquity (both inanimate and human), she is en-route to Australia for the love of her significant other, wanderlust, and a reason to grow out her hair—for wisdom’s allure, that is.