How do you find things to write about? They ask. How do you become a writer? They ask. What makes you a writer? How did you come to deserve such a title?
The thing is, you don’t become a writer.
It’s not a craft you can learn, like a blacksmith or a plumber or a car salesman. You just write. You feel the need for words building up in your throat and your fingers when you’re a child, and you continue to scribble for the rest of your life.
You clog up notebooks, napkins, scraps of paper and the Notes section of your phone with bits and pieces, with the things that are so busy making noise and plugging up your brain. You write about everything you see. Nothing that happens to you is fully processed until you’ve written it down. Everything significant in your life is tattooed down in invisible words on your skin.
When you write, you write for life whether you like it or not.
And once you start, you’ll never really stop. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes you’d rather do anything but sit in front of a computer or a blank piece of paper and write. Sometimes you go for huge stretches of time without writing anything at all. Make peace with the ebbs and the flows.
But don’t be scared of taking a little break. In the meantime, when you’re waiting, make big mistakes. Fool around. Do things you’re not proud of. Be brave when you reveal them. Love, and leave. Hurt and be hurt. You learn all about yourself when you do these things, when you take a little time to fuck around.
Get your heart broken. Really cracked, the kind that stings out of nowhere even years later. Write about it.
And know that the ones who broke your heart are reading your words. Oh yes – they’re digging into it, rolling around in every single letter you write. They are seeing everything through your eyes and you’re swelling their hearts or slicing them open. Sometimes you’re doing both at the same time.
Never bite your tongue. Find a way to say what you’re thinking and say it. I don’t care if you veil it in metaphors and shades. Just say it. Spit it the fuck out. If it’s important enough to write down someplace, it’s important. Don’t apologize.
Scribble on everything. I’ve written on receipts, in the margins of books, on my hands when I’m desperate. Maybe you’ll write something down and not revisit it for years. Think of it like a time capsule.
Get comfortable with your brain. Don’t be afraid of the things that go through it. Get comfortable with your fears, dreams, with those big empty silences. Learn the rhythms of yourself. Don’t hang on to things, but save the best and the worst moments forever.
Talk to strangers. They won’t bite.
Take the back roads. Let it get a little bumpy.