A while back, I saw a blogger quote some of Natalie Goldberg’s advice to writers. She instructs writers who are stuck to simply write,
“What I really want to say …”
and go from there. Later, you can delete that intro, or you can leave it in.
That single piece of advice has been one of the most valuable I’ve ever read when it comes to writing.
When I write about stuff that’s been on my mind forever and has about 14 drafts in various places (notebooks, the notes app, gmail, google docs, Facebook messages, wordpress drafts—there is no end to my organizational prowess), I get tied up in saying it perfectly and starting it off in exactly the right way. Then nothing gets written and even less gets published. This happens to me not just in writing. I get caught up in how to best present something in texts, emails, and actual conversation, too. Especially when the topic is heavy on my heart or truth I’m still wrapping my mind around, I can get tied up in saying it exactly the right way.
So, I’ve started using Natalie Goldberg’s advice. I’ll type, “What I really want to say …,” take a deep breath, and finish the sentence. Beginning with that simple sentence fragment takes off the pressure of a fantastic first start, even if I delete it later. It makes me sit down across the table from my reader, wrap my hands around my mug of tea, look them in the eyes, and tell them what I’m trying to tell them.
I’ve also caught myself saying it in conversation. It not only gives me a way to start a topic, but it also allows me a chance to think. While I’m saying, “What I really want to say …” I have a moment to figure out what that is. What do I really want to say? Asking that question is a catalyst for truth-telling, transparency, and vulnerability, as well as gentleness and tact. Because so often what I want to say and what I do say are not the same.
What I really want to say is that I’ve found this immensely helpful, so like the blogger before me, I thought I’d pass it on to you.