Here’s some great advice from my friend, Jennifer Dukes Lee:
“Here’s a little secret for writers: The way to write authentically is to pay attention to your regular life.
“I have written three books, one Bible study, and thousands of blog posts. But it took me a while to get in touch with The Regular.
“When I took that one simple step, everything about my writing changed.
“It’s like this: we can look around at our regular life and see it as quotidian and boring. That’s true whether you live on a cul-de-sac in Denver, or a farm in northwest Iowa. We hesitate to share from our own experiences and places because we’re afraid others won’t relate. Then, we water it down with generalities, and the life gets sucked out.
“But when I began to OWN my particular stories and places, an interesting paradox revealed itself — my regular life was what made my story both unique AND universally understood. Because when I explored my REGULAR life, all of the worries, fears, emotions, dreams, boredom, doubts, pain, anger, apathy, joy, and hope began to emerge from it.
“This is how you find your magic. You begin in the place where your bare feet roam, under the sky that domes over your head. Start with Place. Start with Home. Start with Regular. Start with your own weird thoughts, fumblings, and ponderings that emerge in your grocery store, church, back yard, bathroom, hospital, counselor’s office, cemetery, school gymnasium. Excavate the feelings underneath the places. The excavating ALWAYS starts when you put the spade under the dirt directly in front of you. Then, you’ll discover whatever it is that makes your story YOURS.
“As a writer, this is your ultimate strength. Write the stories only you can write. That’s how you find your style.”
This reminds me of a poem by Mary Oliver:
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
Is a doorway
In fourth grade
We read and write
Talk and laugh
Create art and friendships
Student Sabina whispers to me
“Susan is so beautiful”
Indeed she is
Inside and out
To bring to class
Bushels of apples
For the students
And teachers and volunteers
Student Eva asks me
“May I have another apple?”
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