It’s an axiom that people want to be heard. It’s what Diane Keaton was screaming about in the early Woody Allen movies. It’s why Oprah has an empire. It’s axiomatic. At the same time, I think our need to be heard is molecular – molecular in the sense that each of us wants to be heard at our most particular level.
Many people have told me they want to write the book they know is within them. When I ask them why they don’t, “time” is always the first answer. If they go on, they usually say, “I don’t know what to write about.”
- (This sounds very Julia Child.) You must begin with two hours of uninterrupted writing time every week, preferably the same time each week. Give yourself some weeks to do this – five or ten to start. Don’t cheat yourself out of these hours. If Julia didn’t say it, she might have: “Sit down with your tea; don’t rise but to pee.”
- Think about a person or people you would like to write or speak to. When I started writing, it was to my daughter, to capture things she might not remember from her childhood. What started as a scrapbook became a memoir, which I’ve given to her and keep a copy of myself, but which no one else will ever see!
- In front of a computer screen with a person or people to talk to, forget about spelling, grammar and introductory paragraphs. Just write. If you’ve cleared your calendar per step one, you’ll have nothing else do with those two hours anyway! If nothing comes to mind in ten or fifteen minutes, make it a letter. Make it a memory you want to be sure other people remember. If it takes three weeks to write your first letter, you’re probably doing a good job!
In these terms, writing is no more difficult than cooking a different breakfast every Saturday for ten weeks or painting the house. These things are doable, and you get better at them over time. Beware though: when you start writing for people about your important memories, you are likely to shed more than a tear. You’re also likely to spend time more time than you’d think listening to the voice within you – that molecular voice that wants to be heard. When you hear it, you’re on the right track. You’ll also find that, sometimes, writing is no more than listening carefully and quietly. Enjoy.