My fiancée won’t sing if anyone can hear her. I won’t dance in front of anyone. Neither of these conditions is unique. Or even uncommon.
This is unfortunate as both singing and dancing are a way of expressing deep emotion. They are amazingly effective at expressing joy, love, anger, frenzy and despair at levels difficult to express through more mundane means. They also happen to be wonderful ways to relieve stress. The benefits of singing and dancing have been understood by religions and cultures for millennia—it’s why their so intertwined with rituals.
But a great number of people suffer these fears. People no longer sing out in joy because they expect others to judge them. I won’t dance in public because I’m afraid that someone will judge me a bad dancer, or laugh at me. And it’s a terrible shame that these forms of expression have been taken away from so many.
Why does this matter? Why did I bring this up on a writing blog?
Because the same thing happens with writing. Writing can be therapeutic in a big way. It’s not only a way to express emotion, it’s a way to test ideas, teach, communicate and create soaring works of art. But a large percentage of the population would never consider picking up the pen because they don’t think they’re any good.
Long ago, someone they looked up to, told them they were bad at it. Maybe it was a teacher who gave a series of subpar grades. Maybe it was a non-supportive parent. Maybe a helpful friend gave an accidentally-harsh critique.
As writers, amateur or professional, we have a unique influence over how others feel about their own writing. Most people don’t write for the purpose of entertaining, or with the thought of being published. Most people, when they pick up the pen, do so merely with the intention to communicate an idea. And they shouldn’t believe, as most of us do, that if we can’t do something at an unusually high level of quality, that we shouldn’t do it at all. We can encourage, or ruin a fledgling author with a well- or misplaced comment.
It’s a beautiful thing when someone sings and doesn’t care that they sound flat. There’s something freeing about watching people dance when they know it feels good, and don’t care whether it looks good. And there’s something refreshing about someone who writes just for the joy of writing, with no burden of the need to spell every word correctly, or to proofread to make sure every comma is in the right place.
Remember, expression should be fun, no matter how serious its message.
I for one, intend to fight to make sure that my tone-deaf daughter sings at the top of her lungs, and my son with a penchant for cliché continues to write his predictable comic books. Because life’s just better that way.
This post was originally posted on Write Anything—
where six writers talk about the trials and
tribulations of their writing lives. And each
Tuesday the soapbox belongs to me.