Source of Material

For a class assignment, we had to read a short story by Paul Auster titled “City of Glass”. There were so many nuggets throughout the story to where I found myself posting sticky notes page after page. One passage in particular resonated with me as it pertains to writing:

“My work is very simple. I have come to New York because it is the most forlorn of places, the most abject. The brokenness is everywhere, the disarray is universal. You have only to open your eyes to see it. The broken people, the broken things, the broken thoughts… I find the streets an endless source of material, an inexhaustible storehouse of shattered things. Each day I go out with my bag and collect objects that seem worthy of investigation.”

On a sticky note I wrote, How I create stories: I go out and collect “life” as sources of material. Each day I leave the house, I come home with an invisible bag full of material. I eavesdrop on conversations as I walk the school campus. I watch how people interact with familiar people and strangers as I stroll the aisles of the grocery store. I observe pedestrians in the street as I drive to and fro.

I collect my observations and make mental notes to retrieve when I sit down to write. I take those tiny pieces of information and let them tell a story. It may not be the story that took place upon collection, but it is the story that unfolds when words move across the page.

As Auster wrote, “brokenness is everywhere.” If one leaves the house and opens his eyes and ears, he will find so much to be observed and heard. There are broken people, broken things, broken thoughts. But there is also happiness, love, peace, infatuation, anger. There are myriad situations taking place every second. These experiences are happening all around us. These are sources of material for which to write from. To create with. To learn and grow from. To better lives with.

The source of material is there; it is everywhere. One must simply be looking. One must be listening. And one must sit with the information collected and let the story take a life of its own. There is more than enough to write about.

Open your eyes. What do you see?

Open your ears. What do you hear?

Take your bag with you the next time you leave the house to see what truths you can collect and put on the page.

Write Like You Own the Page

If you want to be a writer, you cannot be afraid of the page. You can’t be afraid of the story. Write what you don’t know; It will make you a better writer for what you do know. Write what you’ve been through. Write what you never want to go through. Write what makes your soul cry; write what makes your heart smile. Write like you own the page because at the end of the night, you do.

Write Anyway

Don’t let fear of the blank page scare you from telling a story the world needs to hear.

Don’t let the story itself scare you.

Don’t let the process of writing keep you from writing.

What are people going to think of me if I tell this story? How am I going to fill these pages for a complete book? Where will I find the time? Will people even want to hear my story? How will I find an agent? Who will buy my script?

None of the above is your concern. Write anyway! Your focus needs to be on getting the story out of you, by any means necessary. The rest will take care of itself.

Inspiration for the Week

You can’t do what everyone else is doing and expect to be successful. Write in the genre that speaks to your soul. Sing the songs your heart longs for. Make films that reflect your vision. Everything that has been done was done by people who wanted to see what didn’t exist in their world. This is your opportunity.

Make your own path.

Open your own door.

Build your own table.

Tell your own story.

Why I Write

“Why do you write?” was a question posed to me recently to which my response was, “Umm.” I had to sit and ponder momentarily because when I began writing, writing wasn’t the intention. I simply heard a voice whisper, opened a blank document in Word, wrote what I heard, and years later had a complete novel in my hands. The answer to that question was layered.

Writing was never an intention of mine, never a goal or aspiration. It pursued me at the moment I was most hungry for purpose.

Writing was never a thought. I loved reading and still do. I just never saw myself as one to sit down and form paragraphs page after page. I hated writing in school. To be told what I had to read and write papers on was like telling me when I was going to die. That’s why I barely graduated high school. An F in English proved writing was not my calling in life. Granted, my failing grade was not the result of a lack of smarts but rather a refusal of putting forth effort. At some point in my educational career I had given up. The drudgery of rolling out of bed and listening day after day to monotone explanations of y = mx + b or how Colonials built America or that I could not form a proper sentence without subject and verb agreement made me more inclined to tune out than turn my brain on. Not to mention, I attended a different high school every year which left me disinterested in learning and more into forging new friendships, and in some cases, alliances. So, when the school bell rang, I clocked out.

By the grace of God, I graduated on time, and after several months of regaining my sanity, I enrolled in a community college. A semester later I was sworn into the Air Force only to find out that the military was not my route either. In the course of “figuring out” my life, a voice whispered to me. As I mentioned above, I instinctively opened a blank document and typed what I’d heard. That action was unfamiliar to me, but there was something about the clicking of keys and creating chaos on the page that felt so at home to me. Watching the story unfold, hearing the whisper in my ear grow louder and the voices increase in number was exhilarating. I wanted more of it. I needed more.

As I continued to write, not only did I hear and see characters, I heard and saw myself.

I saw myself on the page. I quickly began to see that those voices showed up to show me me, and I knew that in seeing myself that others would see themselves as well. As I continued living, learning, growing, and loving, I also knew that through my stories, others would be free to live, learn, grow, and love. We would all be free to live better lives.

Recently, I attended a book conference where I was a featured author. During this conference, I noticed an author who had a serious hustle. Naleighna Kai sold out of her books because people stayed lined at her table. I told her, “I need to get my hustle on like you but I’m not a salesperson.” She stopped me right there and asked, “Why do you write?”

She went on to say, “Did you write your story only for you or do you believe there are others out there who want/need to hear your story as well?”

Ahhh. That was a revelation for me. Though becoming a writer was not my intention, I knew the reason God allowed me to hear that whisper wasn’t only for my ears. Someone else had been abandoned by a parent or grew up in an abusive home. There were many out there struggling with some form of addiction–to people or drugs and alcohol. I knew there were others besides myself who could relate to holding onto the past, willingly allowing it to keep us hostage. Writing was not meant to be kept to myself, so why is it so hard for me to let people know that I am a writer? That I have not one but two novels published? How do I expect people to know that I am an author if I don’t open my mouth and say so?

Why do I write? I write to heal, to better lives univer(soul)ly every story. I write to better relationships, to better my own. I write to reveal the truth and uncover the lies we accustom ourselves to hearing and telling. I write to liberate, to transform, to assist in transition. I write to make connections, to draw parallels. To expose and evaluate, to reveal consequences to our actions, and to show the many ways we judge others without wanting that judgment extended toward us. I write to understand others, but also to understand myself; to understand human motivation. What motivates us to do and say the things we do and say: I write to explore. To understand our convictions and our needs. I write to encourage others, to allow each of us to see ourselves through others to better our relationships in one way or another. To foster better communication and love toward one another; to better humanity.

I write because it is my mission, my purpose, my reason for experiencing and (be)ing.

My reasons for writing will continue to expand the more I do, and that is a beautiful thing. I may never fully understand why God chose writing as the vessel in which I would do His work, but I can appreciate who it has allowed me to become in doing so. Feeling as though writing was not my calling in life only to be called to write is proof that life always points us in the direction we are to go in. When we ask, seek, and knock, we must be willing to answer the call when it comes.