Let Your Writing Be the Boss

I had hoped to write during my month in France, but was too busy and distracted to focus. So I was relieved when an idea for a new essay came to me a few days after returning home.
I wanted to write about how speaking French once again, I had reconnected with a lost part of myself.

I sat down to write full of energy and optimism, and the first paragraph came tumbling onto the page. Then I panicked. What to write next? What was the story I wanted to tell? I knew where I wanted to begin, but without knowing the plot, how could I continue?

I sat for a while staring at my computer screen, panic burbling up within me. What’s next, what’s next? I kept thinking. But nothing came to me. This is terrible. I’m blocked, I concluded after 15 minutes of feeling panicky and blank. Nothing–no words, no ideas, no images. Just a vibrating nothingness.

I finally got up and went for a walk around the block. I often find that movement helps free any ideas that are having difficulty rising to the surface when I write. In fact, walking is my go-to strategy whenever the writing feels sluggish.

But the more steps I took, the more nothing, nothing, nothing clanged through me. You’re not going to be able to write this piece. By the time I returned home, I was in quite a state.

Then I remembered: You don’t have to know just where you are going when you write. Let the writing lead you!

I immediately relaxed. And the next time I sat down to write, I was no longer concerned with the direction my essay would take. I wasn’t even worried about the next “logical” point I should explore. Instead, I picked up the writing with whatever idea about speaking French popped into my head, and let the words find their way to the page, trusting that what was now coming to light would find its right place within my essay once I began revising.

Now that I’ve accumulated several more pages, I can assure you that not forcing my writing, allowing the essay to develop organically, has allowed me to make important discoveries about my former writing block. Discoveries I would not have made if I had forced a preordained order and content onto the page.

Trusting the words to arrive, and welcoming them when they do, I am reminded, permits me the fullest and deepest self-expression, something I denied myself for too many years.

Beach Jewels


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