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You too can write (and a prompt)

I have a friend, or had – she moved away a few years ago – who told me that her worst fear was to have to write something and share it with others. I tried to arrange a fun writing night with a writing teacher I knew. Everybody would show up, she would lead us through some prompts, we’d each write an account of a childhood memory, and we’d all leave with a story of a certain moment of our lives that was worth remembering.

“Oh, no,” she said. “You don’t understand. There is no way I would ever in a million years do that. I just can’t write.”

“But…“ I started.

“Don’t even invite me,” she said. “I won’t come.”

We all can write, even if we don’t often choose to. Even if it’s only a shopping list, or a note to the kids’ teacher, or an indignant consumer letter. Even if we don’t think of ourselves as writers, we are. We collect memories, turn them into stories, cultivate some and avoid others. For those of us who take to writing down our thoughts and feelings there are benefits – self-expression, and a chance to see those thoughts and feelings from a different angle once they are out of our heads and down on paper or screen.

But then there’s the dread of sharing it. What if our audience has the same reaction as the teacher who criticized our efforts long ago? What if it doesn’t make sense to others? What if we reveal too much? What if we are misunderstood?

I went to two weeks of writing classes in Iowa City this summer, which is like summer camp for people like me. Unlike my friend, I couldn’t wait – for the focused time, for the chance to find out if I am communicating what I mean to, yes, even for the feedback.

If you are tempted to stick your neck out and write something that only you could write, here is a prompt I’m lifting from a guided journal I wrote a couple of years ago:

What amazes me is…

If you spend 5 minutes jotting down what occurs to you, without worry about perfect grammar or spelling, knowing that the only person you need to share it with is yourself, you might have a moment with yourself that otherwise would never have happened. You probably have a lot to say.

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