Writing with No Maps

Writing has not changed. It is easy, it is hard. It is fun. It is grueling. It produces results. It never gets off the ground.  It drives you crazy. It fills you with elation. So after all this advertising, are you going to catch the wave and be a writer?

Yes. It’s in your blood. You’ve got this urge to write. You don’t know why but you must write. But how do you begin? You don’t know what you want to write about? You don’t know how to do it. Your grammar is not excellent. You hated English class, but you love writing. Ignore the doubtful voices. Sit, go on, sit down and write.


When you sit at your computer or you have pen to paper, the same process occurs.

Natalie Goldberg expressed it in “Writing Down the Bones.”

“When I teach a beginning class, it is good. I have to come back to beginner’s mind, the first way I thought and felt about writing. In a sense, that beginner’s mind is what we must come back to every time we sit down and write. There is no security, no assurance that because we wrote something good two months ago, we will do it again. Actually, every time we begin, we wonder how we ever did it before. Each time is a new journey with no maps.”

No maps. It tugs at our inner free spirit. Maybe that’s why so many of us love to write. It’s up to us to  travel to worlds we’ve visited or imagined. To become someone else we are not. And sometimes, even thought we don’t realize it, writing can be therapy.  It tells us a lot about ourselves.

Perhaps we come upon an idea that seems strange and we tarry a bit. Fiction or non-fiction. Should we go there, should we not? Jump! Go! Tear it up later. Explore the thought, take off, explode into the unknown! Take a chance.

The first article I ever sold was sad, one I nearly didn’t write.

It was about the death of my second child. My first child was healthy as could be, and so we were extremely distressed to see that our second child was born with Hyaline Membrane Disease. He lived one day. Leaving the hospital with no baby. Devastating.

A short time later I wrote a piece about how lucky we were to have had our first healthy child, then a thriving thirteen month old, to come home to and be a constant reminder of something I had always taken for granted. Good health. I wrote how we dealt with the loss and sent it in to “Baby Talk” magazine, knowing full well they would never print anything so absolutely depressing. Which was a testimony to how young and naive I was. I thought I was the only one suffering from loss. The editors bought it and thus started me on the road to freelancing.

Sometimes what we are writing about —  nonfiction or fiction — seems unlikely to be of value to anyone. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned since the tech revolution, it’s that it’s a big world out there.

So what I am saying is don’t hold back. Write it down. You may be a new writer, but you have unique experiences and a perspective no one else has.

Tell us a story.


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