just write! (archived post)

by benjamin hollon on march 28, 2020

Whether you're bored, inspired to be creative, or just stuck inside with nothing to do, writing is an excellent pastime that offers infinite possibilities.

Writing can come in many forms. One can write stories, nonfiction, histories, or even blogs like I am doing now. Every type of writing has its benefits.

I mainly deal with writing fiction and writing in this blog, so those are the methods I'll unpack for you.

First: fiction. Fiction tends to be what people think of when they talk of "writing." Writing has an aspect of creation, of taking ideas from your head and putting them on paper that people associate with fiction.

Now, you don't have to write fiction to be creative. It's just the most obvious form of writing.

When you write fiction, you have a sense of power over your story. Your characters are at your mercy. You wield the pen, and they must obey what you write.

But although you have absolute power, there are still rules. Now, in fiction, the rules of writing are very malleable, able to adjust to your preferences. You can even make up the rules. But there must be rules.

Take the fantasy genre, for example. Many people want to write fantasy because it's easier, because you "don't have to follow the rules." I believe this to be a misconception. Fantasy isn't a ruleless genre where anything can happen (see the Oz books, especially the later ones) but a world where you get to create the rules (like in Tolkein's Middle Earth). The more rules you follow, the more believable the story becomes and, often, the better.

Fantasy and science-fiction are similar. In essence, both are trying to answer a "what if" question. The difference is in how they answer it. Science-fiction says, "what if the world changed until it was this way" but still follows the rules that we know and keeps it (for the most part) in the universe we know and love.

Fantasy, on the other hand, completely changes the world, creates new rules, and asks, "what if the world was always this way?" These new rules still have to be followed as strictly as the rules in sci-fi. The difference is the origin of the rules. Fantasy is, if anything, harder to write since you have to make the rules as well as keep them.

Now, sci-fi and fantasy are not the only genres in fiction that you can write. But in every genre, there are rules you have to follow. In some cases (fantasy being the foremost), you get to make the rules. In others (such as sci-fi), there are rules already in place that you have to follow.

But that doesn't make writing fiction less fun. The best part about writing is fitting all of your creative goodness into a narrow box, taking your ideas from the nebulous state of your mind, giving them laws, and setting them down so others can see them. Without that, there would be no point in writing. If there are no rules, the readers lose their interest, and there is no point to the story. It is the completion of creativity, despite the rules, that is what writing is all about.

Let us turn to the mythical realm of nonfiction, one which many readers prefer to do without.

I would recommend that you attempt writing narrative nonfiction if you find yourself fascinated by different issues or events in history and want to set them down.

Now, the primary way I write nonfiction is through this blog. I find it freeing to set down my thoughts like this, a public way where others can see it. It lets me process my thoughts and gives me the excuse of writing for others to read.

My blog is to me what a journal is to other people. I can never convince myself to keep a journal. I've tried, but I give up after a week or so. I feel no motivation to write down my thoughts when I'm the only one who will see them and (I think) I know my thoughts already. Now, I know that writing down my thoughts in a journal would help me process them better and remember them for longer, but it's hard to convince myself of that when it comes down to it. I don't feel any motivation.

With a blog, however, I have the excuse of writing for others. I can still set down my thoughts, process them, and remember them later, but now feel motivated since I am writing for other people. Other people can now learn from my journey, my thoughts. I'll admit, I may not write everything in a blog that I would write in a journal, but I feel the experience more motivating and beneficial.

Whichever method you prefer, fiction or nonfiction, I challenge you to set aside five or ten minutes each day this week and write. It doesn't have to be great. Not everyone is a William Shakespeare or Charles Dickens, but everyone can write. Don't worry about writing something with perfect grammar, flawless character development, or chock-full of symbols; you can come back and fix that later. Just worry about getting words down.

No one needs to see it; you don't even have to look at it again yourself. It's the writing process that counts.

I've found that writing also improves my reading experience. As a writer, I have respect for an author, realizing all the work that goes into choosing how to word even a single sentence. I begin to see the symbols and understand the writer's thought process. It's like getting a peek into the author's brain. I find myself enjoying what I read far more than I used to.

Not everyone will have the same reasons or responses to writing that I do. The best way to find out why you love writing is to start doing it. Whatever your reason, writing will be beneficial to you.

And with that, go forth and write! If you find that writing has become one of your favorite pastimes and I inspired you, please let me know! I'd love to hear your story or read some of your work.

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