The most important thing about calling yourself a writer, or even using words in real life is admitting the fact that SOMEONE needs your story. Even if that someone is you.
There’s a lot of talk about “speaking your truth” and “using your voice.”
As a high school English teacher, my students would say “We have the right to free speech!” I would remind them - free speech does not come without consequences. Neither does staying silent. Finding and using your words comes with the distinct weight of responsibility.
There are words that are worth using in the world and also words that are meant to stay private. So, how do you decide which words are meant for your journal and which words need to be used in real life?
It’s not an easy answer and a very personal decision. I help writers figure out when to share and when to wait.
ASK YOURSELF THESE 5 QUESTIONS BEFORE SHARING YOUR WORDS:
IS MY THINKING CLEAR? Get into a rhythm of writing every day. It will help you focus on words that matter and practice making sense of them. Observe which words you feel confident about and might want to share and which ones make you uncomfortable and need to be explored more deeply in private.
WHERE IS THIS COMING FROM? Notice whether you are writing from a place of knowledge or discovery. Pay attention to whether your writing is coming from your head or your heart. If either is not in balance with the other, take a pause before sharing publicly.
HAVE I CONSIDERED OTHER PERSPECTIVES? Don’t act on your words until you’ve given yourself some time to reflect. Especially if your words are meant to be persuasive, think about what perspective is missing from your story. Make sure you’ve considered your intentions for sharing, who needs to hear what you have to say, and will your words be helpful or hurtful?
WHO NEEDS MY WORDS? As you write in rhythm and sit with your words for a bit, picture the person who needs the words you might use. Were you writing for your own personal clarity, or does what you have to say provide value for someone else? This insight will help determine whether to keep your words or share them.
DO MY WORDS ADD VALUE? If your words are being used in a way that might add value to your reader’s life, consider using them in public. If you only need an outlet or a sounding board stick to your journal or your close friends.
The process of writing is first and foremost a way of understanding humanity - our own and that of others. To be discerning about how and when to use your words is a privilege not to be taken lightly - they can be used to lift others up or tear them down. There are real consequences for having that privilege. Your words, your story, should be used as a gift to yourself, most importantly, and to others as needed - in real life.