writing for yourself

Keep Some of Your Writing to Yourself

I have a confession. I’ve been writing things and not sharing them with you. I’m keeping some of my writing to myself for a change. It feels like a secret, one that means little to anyone else but means everything to me.

I used to keep writing all to myself. I kept a journal from a very young age and I always hid my journal beneath my mattress—as if to protect my words from the prying eyes of the public.

In school, I felt the teacher betrayed us when she gave a writing prompt, encouraged us to spill our secrets onto the page in solitude, then turned on all of us by turning quiet writing time into show and tell. If any student refused to share their writing with the class, then the teacher would do it.

I never shared my writing. I cringed over the years as teachers read my work to the class. Thankfully, most of my teachers kept my work anonymous as they read it aloud—but anyone who bothered to observe me would see the sweat and the blushing, every ounce of fear and anxiety releasing through my skin before I imploded.

Eight years after launching this blog, four novels later, and thousands of pieces of content released into the business wild, I still sweat and blush anytime I share my work. That anxiety never left, that selfish urge to hide my words beneath my mattress.

But, I kept giving my words away, away, away. Away to everyone and forgetting to keep some of them to myself. Until recently when I started taking up my childhood nighttime ritual of journaling in bed. Journaling about nothing in particular, for nobody else, for no objective or reaction.

My idea to keep writing to myself was solidified during a recent conversation I had about refocusing techniques with Marina Sofia on Love Your Enthusiasm.

When you write and edit on the regular, you have to close yourself off from endless distractions to get these high-focus tasks done. Being that Marina is an indie publisher and a writer, reviewer, and blogger, I knew she would have a refocusing technique that worked.

Here’s what Marina said on the podcast…

So one thing I do is with my local writing group, Royal Borough Writers. We do writing for wellbeing where we get together and have a bit of a guided writing meditation practice. It’s free-flowing writing with minimal prompts—maybe a verse or something—and then you just let it all out. I find that having those rants on paper, even if it’s rubbish that I’ll never look at again, really clears my head of rubbish so I can then focus on more important things.”

Whether you’re a blogger, author, content creator—or all of the above like me—you take writing very seriously. You share your words often with others, perhaps hundreds or thousands of others. But, these words don’t fall out of the sky…they come from within.

Just like anyone else, you start with a blank page. The difference is that you have the ability to conjure up words and fill the page. Then you go a step beyond that and share this inner journey, this personal victory, with others who either:

  • Get it.
  • Don’t get it.
  • Like it.
  • Love it.
  • Hate it.
  • Don’t feel anything about it.

This is blog post #327. My blog is only some of the writing I share with people…yes, some.

It’s a lot. When your writing is always public-facing, it’s very easy to separate yourself from writing just to write. Writing for the love of writing. Writing for wellbeing and self-expression.

journal writing outside

There’s also something to this idea of not publishing every damn thing you write, because guess what, sunshine? It’s not always good writing. I’ve published plenty of shit writing myself over the years, I’m sure of it.

This is where a “writing for wellbeing practice” can actually save your reputation as a writer. Marina called it rubbish and I call it drivel. When you write randomly in a journal, spotlighted by the dim light of the bedroom lamp, you make space for better work in your writing cave later.

In my secret journal, I recently wrote too many pages about a new pen I bought. A pen? Yeah, a fucking pen. It’s chrome and dusty rose, thank you very much. So, in a way you’re lucky that I decided not to publish the “Ode to My New Chrome and Dusty Rose Pen” on this blog. It would not have meant anything to you, but it meant something special to me.

This is the first nice pen I’ve ever bought myself in life. Okay, “nice” is maybe a stretch since it was like $12. I’ve always been a writer without a pen. I wrote with whatever was lying around—a hotel, insurance, conference pen—or one of those generic pens birthed in a factory and swaddled in a plastic package.

So simple to use a pen as a writing prompt, but I felt like I went somewhere with it. And better yet, I kept this one to myself because of the significance of springing for a decent pen at this particular time in my life. These thoughts are all mine and it feels fantastic.

I still believe that sharing art is of critical importance to humanity, especially when humanity needs it most. But, I also believe it’s important to keep some of our creativity to ourselves, stash it under the mattress to protect it so we can bring more meaning back to our work…and remember why in the hell we became writers in the first place.

Fellow writers, how do you feel about it?

16 thoughts on “Keep Some of Your Writing to Yourself

  1. This post really touched me. Thank you for making the (seemingly obvious!) point that not everything needs to be shared–something that seems unfathomable to the millions on Twitter and Facebook…

    “In school, I felt the teacher betrayed us when she gave a writing prompt, encouraged us to spill our secrets onto the page in solitude, then turned on all of us by turning quiet writing time into show and tell. If any student refused to share their writing with the class, then the teacher would do it.”

    I want to give that teacher a taste of her own medicine! How many of us have been wounded and stifled because of these kinds of thoughtless approaches. For me, the stifling came in the form of my father’s edict: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Because so much of what boiled inside of me as a child and adolescent was full of confusion, rage, and bewilderment (not nice!) I ended up silencing my own voice for many years.

    I’m happy to say that when I teach writing, I take exactly the opposite approach your teacher did. I try to nurture the tender sprouts of writers’ voices and let them blossom in their own time. No show and tell, no shaming!

    1. You sound like a fantastic writing teacher. I was never a fan of the pushy show and tell in school, because I was so shy and my writing was important to me.

      I hear ya on the “if you don’t have anything nice to say” speech. Overall, we are taught to silence our emotions as children and well into adulthood.

      Thank goodness for writing…and probably a big reason why blogging is still so popular. A great place to release our emotions and share thoughts as we please.

  2. I immediately flashed back to childhood/middle school and having my work read aloud. I hated that with a passion, though secretly kept wishing that my words would blow my classmates away. Of course, at that age, you would never let on that you liked something anyway, so it was a lose-lose proposition most of the time. Things changed in college.

    I still journal a lot. I have several journals, in fact. There are some that I hope are never read. One journal I’d like to grab and burn if I’m on my deathbed. Other journals are for daily thoughts, records of what’s happening in the world and how I think about things, etc. If I think about it, only about 10% of what I write is shared. I love blogging and putting stuff “out there,” but it’s usually nothing that makes me feel too vulnerable or disclosed.

    1. Did any kid like having their work read aloud in class? I’m starting to wonder. Because even if your writing was good and you were proud of it…how did the other kids react? Plenty of kids laughed when my teacher read my work, just to be jerks. Anyway…sigh. Here we are, still writing even with all of the emotional scarring.

      I chuckled when you talked about the one journal you would like to grab and burn on your deathbed. I had a couple of those that I destroyed already. It felt good to release those journals from my life! Maybe do that sooner, rather than later?

  3. I do remember having one story read out in college (your equivalent would be grade11 or 12, I think) and I was quietly pleased because I was proud of it – and the teacher gave me great feedback. But I also remember having a horror story read out in class when I was maybe 12 or 13 – it was quite gory and the teacher took the mickey out of it and people laughed………I have different kinds of writing. My journals are for my eyes only, then there’s my creative non-fiction on the blog, then I tend to save the fiction for submissions to magazines and competitions.

    1. I totally had to look up “took the mickey out of it.” 🙂 That’s awful that your teacher did that, but then you have the supportive teachers that make up for the others, I suppose.

      It’s good to have different kinds of writing. Some we share, some we don’t. I’ve gotten into a bad habit of writing only things that are shared over the past few years. Feels nice to hide some of it again!

  4. I see what you’re saying Britt though I’ve never had that wish to write non-publicly. However I’m working with a woman who’s writing her memoirs; she gets in the zone and memory-dumps, scribbling longhand. She has no pretension to style, grammar, spelling etc. but it is super-powerful stuff. It’s my job to corral her writing, tidy, arrange without losing that power, her voice. Hopefully the combined end product will work and could be read aloud in class 🙂

    1. I hear ya. I only have so much time for creative writing, so that is one of the reasons I often share everything that I write. Otherwise, this blog would have died years ago. It has been nice to scribble nonsense in my journal and keep some thoughts to myself for a change.

      I’m so excited that you’re helping someone write their memoirs. Very cool! I love helping other people become authors behind the scenes. Good way to use your skills to help someone realize their dreams.

  5. Interesting… There are so many thoughts lost in space and mind that were never shared because never put down in words on a sheet of paper… Sometimes, I feel like I should have written them anyway, but then, another thought springs up “what for? since no-one’s ever gonna read it?” and I believe it was nothing and meant to be let go.

    Now that I read this piece of yours, I wonder…

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