how to write what matters
Making meaning doesn't have to look like a satin ribbon tied on a sealed box. You get to decide what it means and how it looks.
As a trio who formerly ran a women's magazine, we believe pretty strongly that hearts belong on paper. But if you're like most people, getting from feelings to words can be pretty freaking hard. We believe there a few sure-fire tricks to help take the pressure off and get things flowing. This is how you write what matters:
1. Don't be afraid to get messy
Start in the middle if that's what makes sense and don't wait for the perfect words. Write what's inside—every tangled up bit of it. If one idea leads you to the next, follow the trail and see where you end up. When you're trying to get it all out, it's OK to let yourself be led by thoughts instead of an outline. Just get the words down and you can sort them out later.
And no, spelling doesn't count.
2. Write what you don't want to forget
The smell of your baby's hair when you're rocking her to sleep. The way your grandmother left half-full cups of coffee throughout the house. The time you thought you were alone but realized you weren't—if there's something you want to hold on to, you have to get it on paper. Don't let the passing of time erase the things you want to hold dear. Write down everything you love about this moment.
3. Choose little pieces
Life happens in millions of minutes and thousands of days. That's what has made you who you are. You don't have to write from start to finish—just start with bite-sized chunks. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither, babe, were you. It's a lot easier to really flesh out a story when you're focused on a short bit of time versus trying to span many years or a lifetime. Take inventory of the things that have shaped your heart and start chronicling the little moments.
4. Focus on the emotion
How did you feel when he left? What was your first reaction when you knew she was coming to visit? Start with feelings and build from there. Describing the sequence of events commits things to memory. But describing how they felt commits things to the heart.
5. Remember it's fine as-is
There doesn't have to be a happy ending. Maybe there's no lesson learned. You don't have to walk away having had an epiphany. It happened and it matters so just tell it like it is. Don't let discouragement tell the story. You're here to tell the tale and that counts for quite a lot. Making meaning doesn't have to look like a satin ribbon tied on a sealed box. You get to decide what it means and how it looks. Ugly things can stay ugly and you can still write about their significance. Your story is fine as-is, sister. Don't spend time worrying about whether or not it's enough. Just write.
If you're thinking you should write, then you definitely need to. Let that little tug lead you and put your heart on paper.