Last year I had one of those feelings. I’ve felt it thousands of times and it never gets old. I had a great idea and I wanted to write about it. It was nearly a year ago. It was Election Day. I was walking back from my polling station, thoughts swirling in my head and I tried to simultaneously capture them, make sense of them and put them into a semi-cohesive narrative. I walked a little faster toward home and got them all down as fast as I could. I’m a bit of a one-draft pony when it comes to how I write. I like getting it all out there the first time and maybe I’ll tinker with it over a day or two but I love the feeling of getting it down, reading it once, and sending it out. When I wrote my election piece, though, I didn’t really have a place to send it out, besides a few friends. So I did something I talked about the same way I’ve talked about joining the gym, travelling to Europe, and golfing more – I created a blog.
I’m not as prolific as I would like to be in a perfect world, but my blog returned to me something that was missing in my life for a couple years. I love writing. It’s always been one of my favourite things to do, and one of the few things I can honestly tell people I’m good at. I love writing for people. I love hearing what they think. I love watching page views go up. It’s a tangible measure of my thoughts’ footprint in the world, no matter how fleeting or small, and sometimes someone tells me something I wrote impacted them positively. That’s a beautiful and humbling thing.
My internal jury is still out on that thing we call a soul. I may not know if I believe in a spiritual entity in me that houses the self or the intrinsic nuances of consciousness and whatever else you want to include in there, but I know that whatever it is, writing is good for mine. I don’t think I can remember a time when I wasn’t confident in putting pen to paper or fingers to keys or thumbs to touchscreens. I feel most free when I write, more like the best version of me. I’m lucky to realize that. I hope I don’t stop feeling that way.
I have a lot of credit to dole out for that, mostly to the fortune of having a loving, conscientious, and ever-present educator for a mom, who would read to me and teach me the alphabet at a ridiculously young age. My dad also made for a great sidekick, getting in on bedtime stories, patiently explaining concepts and surrounding me with exceptional orators on TV, like Peter Mansbridge, Ron McLean, Bob Costas, and many more. That shouldn’t be overlooked. I think giving kids the best people to copy will make their voice a little clearer and a little more confident by the time they begin to create it. Give your kid a dictionary too, so they have something to look up words in, and have to read the definition by themselves and know how to look stuff up.
Writing allows me to confront my values and morality more honestly and thoughtfully. Anyone can re-tweet or share or post a picture with someone else’s words. As I write my own thoughts though, I will feel the question begging – do I really believe this? Do I really support this? Sure, it’s pretty easy to let that question pass and publish those words, and sometimes people do that. I’ve probably done that too. For every piece I submit to however tiny an audience though, there are probably 10 or 20 that I decide need more thought, or aren’t ready yet. Even if you put it back in the drawer, or the garbage can, or the fireplace, don’t settle for just amplifying someone else. Your thoughts and feelings, no matter how similar to someone else’s are unique. They are yours, and they matter.
Everyone who writes wants to be read. I think it’s silly to declare otherwise, because it’s such an obvious lie. Even journals and diaries are written for a silent, invisible audience, or at the very least, the author’s future self. There can always be an anxiety about publishing your work, especially if what you write can be controversial. The rush I get wondering how my work will be received is second to none, though. I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.
When someone you know, and especially someone you like, writes something, read it. If they ask you to read it, read it as soon as you can. They are telling you that your thoughts are respected and your opinion is important to them. Even if their work will soon be available for the world, writing being brought to you is very special. Do not waste the opportunity to better know the people in your life and show them you can be trusted to provide thoughtful and honest feedback. I am eternally grateful to the people I show my work to before it sees the light of day and even moreso to the ones who tell me how they feel.
There are lots of different communities within Twitter. There’s Politics Twitter, Funny Twitter, Weird Twitter, Basketball Twitter, Tech Twitter and a Twitter for whatever your heart desires, good, bad, or ugly. Hockey Twitter, and more specifically Leafs Twitter has been a favourite of mine for a few years. It’s a great place to broaden my knowledge of the game and understand differing points of view from knowledgeable people. Sometimes, like most Twitter, it gets a little insufferable because people like to argue. Most of the time it’s a good place to be. One of the guys in this community I follow is Tom Hunter, or @PuckDontLie. He’s a good writer. You should read his stuff here.
I don’t even remember what the tweet was but I liked something Tom wrote and I guess he checked out my latest article and offered a chance to have future work published on The Bloggers Tribune. That was a big deal for me. I’ve always wanted to write about sports – it’s why I went to journalism school for a semester in 2004 before dropping out. Sometimes though, it feels like everything’s already being said, that there’s no space to carve out for yourself because you’ll only be rephrasing someone else’s thoughts. Maybe that’s true, and maybe it isn’t. Having someone proactively tell you your voice is welcome, though, is all it takes. I’m very grateful for Tom reaching out. It’s a pretty nice thing to do for someone you don’t know at all. The moral of that story is: like people’s tweets.
What I love most about writing is that there’s no right answer. There’s no formula, and anyone trying to tell you otherwise is probably more interested in telling people how to do things than the merit of their message. Yeah there are verbs and nouns and subjects and objects, but those aren’t really rules, that’s just language. I believe there’s such a thing as good writing and bad writing, but don’t let anyone’s pretensions stop you from putting your thoughts down. As Hemingway said – you don’t need big words to convey big emotions. Just be clear, be thoughtful, and most importantly, be you.
If you’ve read any of my work, even the first sentence of something before deciding it sucks, thank you. I could never adequately express how much it means to me. I feel most alive when I’ve just published something. It is a unique and beautiful way to contribute something to the world, and to invite conversation about something you care about, even if it’s a dumb joke or a super small observation. I’m very fortunate to be able to do this and I understand not everyone knows what it feels like to create something and be proud of it. That’s okay, because everyone has different strengths and passions. I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity to share a part of mine.