Honest writing is about feeding the spirit, and so much more!

Don’t ever let them teach you how to write!

Teacher and classroom 1950sThe implications of this statement are encouraging and thought provoking, to say the least. It’s a line that gets to the heart of the matter, forces us to sink our teeth into something deeper – beyond the scope of words, obliterated with “grammatically correct” verbiage…


Writing — true, honest to goodness writing — is about feeding the spirit, energizing the weary, and comforting the lonely. You can’t accomplish this with a well-placed comma, simple declarative sentence and mundane dialogue. No! Real writing crosses the boundaries of status quo expectations. Real writing punches you in the gut.

“It’s gut-wrenching, raw, and filled with uncensored emotion!”

But it doesn’t stop there.

It goes on to take hold of those deeply buried inner feelings, grabbing them in its fist and squishing them through its fingers ‘til you can see the passion oozing out from every ounce and fiber of your very being! Real writing isn’t nice and neatly packaged. It’s gut-wrenching, raw, and filled with uncensored emotion!

Did I get your attention yet?

Are you interested in discovering how to tap into that real writing experience? Have I made you squirm and feel a little bit uncomfortable about what it takes to be a phenomenally energized and effectively sound writer? Good! That’s how you should feel right about now, because that’s what it takes to be open to the ultimate writing experience.

Once you’re open to it, the words flow, heading downstream – and if you’re lucky, you can’t stop them.

“…like a waterfall readers can’t wait to dive into”

taughannock falls NY 2012They bubble up and pour out of you like a river, rushing in some spots, pooling in others, pushing past rocks, trees, foliage and debris (some of which is nothing more than litter), until finally they overflow into an overpowering rush – just like a waterfall readers can’t wait to dive into, hoping against hope the bottom will be deep enough to break their fall with minimal injury! There is no sense of calm stagnancy when a writer unleashes the spirit through words – meant for an audience of … ONE.


What, you don’t really think you’re writing for the New York Times Best Seller list right out of the gate, now do you?

Even if you do, wouldn’t it be better to start out pleasing yourself? I mean, if you can’t live with what you’re writing, why on earth would you want to publish and torture the rest of us with it?

“Because we should be picky about … how we use our time”

Therein is the crux of the problem, with so many words being published in various media outlets these days. Words for the sake of words — typed out faster than a Triple Crown winner at the Kentucky Derby — wasted words vying for our unadulterated attention.

But they can’t have it, and you want to know why? Because we should be picky about what we choose to read, watch and how we use our time, a most precious commodity we must rightfully scrutinize, opting not to squander it needlessly on useless words that hold no value for us.

Write for yourself.

Writing is a personal experience and exercise of self-expression. It is not limited by boundaries of what publishers want to publish, editors want to read and experiences require to be audited, only to be censored through the powers of political correctness.

You’re not writing to please an audience. You’re writing to disrupt a planet! You’re writing to garner attention…but not for the sake of attention, for the sake of the grassroots movement of change.

Write to your head-trash.

Crazy Pig HeadC’mon! We all have it, and any writer worth reading taps into it regularly, exposing personal viewpoints about what’s wrong with the world, what’s right with the world, how issues can and should be better addressed, and why certain situations always seem to get a raw deal, while others seem to be unendingly euphoric.

Cast aside the bitter complaint session no one wants to hear or read anyway. Writing head-trash is about being open, honest and BLUNT! It is NOT about hatred, vengeance and bigotry.

Write from your toes.

Baby toesYes! You’ve undoubtedly stepped, walked or waded knee deep in shit on occasion; you’ve probably also been targeted by a bird overhead in the sky! This is life.

Now get on with it, tap into it, express and explode the utter complexity of maintaining your cool (depending on the situation), and being completely and profoundly disgusted by the circumstances which led to such a plight, only to find their way to a page of emotion designed to tantalize readers through your writing.

Write what you know.

You’ll never fool your readers anyway, so you might as well admit defeat before you waste some of that valuable time we touched on earlier in this article. Besides, this is where you’ll find the most resources. You already have most of them – built right in…skeletons in the closet as it were, or not.

Of course reading any of the great ones will soon prove you wrong. All writers have skeletons in their closets – be it real or imaginary, doesn’t matter. We all have them, which explains why writing is such an optimal outlet for us.

Look at the numbers.

Just don’t let the numbers box you in! Writing for pleasure is one thing. However, if you’re writing for any type of self-sustainability, you need to be an honest critic of your own numbers.

“…you’re in the wrong line of work anyway”

Study the flow of traffic. It will tell you what readers respond to in your writing. And guess what? They might respond to a topic you didn’t expect or plan to invest so much energy and time into. No matter. Adjust your thinking…or find a different line of work!

The fact remains that if your audience is enjoying something you find no pleasure writing, you’re in the wrong line of work anyway…in which case, you will probably find yourself more satisfied writing strictly for pleasure (say perhaps like a journal, blog or writing peer group).

Who knows? This could end up being the ticket that leads you to the networking circle you need to jump-start the type of writing you really want to focus on anyway.

Don’t ever let them teach you how to write, but don’t be a naive fool about reality either.

Writing is everywhere, and it comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes and packages. Some of us are born to toss this world into a massive washing machine and super wash it until the only thing that remains is a few fibers and broken strings of thread.

Others help us visualize things beyond the scope of our imagination at first sight.

Still others bring us back down to earth, helping us organize, categorize and balance our lives with necessary structure and technical details (minus the difficulties, please). Rules apply to all, but you know what they say about rules, now don’t you?


»Photo credits: Michael 1952 (teacher and class), SoWrite/JCB (falls), Rumpleteaser (pig), Sabianmaggy (toes)

MJ Joachim

M.J. Joachim has published more than 1000 online articles. Don’t miss her Writing Tips blogsite. M.J.’s interests and expertise range from Crocheting and gardening to marketing and brand management. Learn more about M.J. on our Contributors Page.


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  1. Your words are inspiring and energizing, M.J.
    I’d like to learn more about Head-trash, and more about how I can write from my toes. Can you tell how much I loved both mental images, by the physical images I found to use in your essay as bullets?
    We should all aspire to write at your level of incredible enthusiasm.
    Thank you for sharing your thought-provoking thoughts with SoWrite’s readers.

    • Must be the free spirit in me, Jim:) Or maybe it’s because letting go and playing in the mud never really hurt anyone, that and the fact that pie fights really are a lot of fun! Nothing a little clean-up (editing in writing) won’t fix, while the meat, heart and soul of a first draft remain – not as a memory, but as the frame that holds it altogether…
      It’s wonderful to be able to be a part of this fine group. Thanks back at you, kind sir!

      • “…while the meat, heart and soul of a first draft remain — as the frame that holds it altogether” — perfect, M.J.! Good to know that editing and revising isn’t all about slashing and burning until little remains of the original.
        It’s wonderful to have you here, my friend.

  2. I guess I will wipe the stuff out from my toes and see what I can do with it. I found this really helpful as I am currently breaking the rules on my book for Gary’s family. I never really believed in rules anyway. Thanks for sharing these very helpful tips.

    • Ah, hi Ann:) Can’t thank you enough for taking time to read and comment on my article! I’m thrilled you find it helpful and am eager to see your new book, when it is finished. Rules are important, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that sometimes, creativity needs to be put out there without restraint…it’s how creative genius is born, I suppose, unless it’s merely a learning curve, which is probably most of the time for the majority of us. Best of the day to you!

    • If anyone can break the “rules” and get great results, you can, Ann! Glad to hear that you’re writing that book, and hope to be able to read it when you finish. Are you still doing any camping?

      • Camping for four days in Tucson on Oct. 25th. Will wave at MJ as we pass her. Can’t take the trailers because the truck needs work so we are tenting it. I am impressed, I can’t type with my toes.

  3. Beautiful article, M.J. , insightful and very, very, thought-provoking. You have nailed this one. Why should anyone limit ourselves to writing for others if we are not happy doing so? Why write ‘cultivated trash’ that means nothing when we can express ourselves and obtain at least that perhaps minimal, but heady satisfaction? Being ‘free in spirit’ doesn’t mean writing garbage or poorly–in an illiterate manner.
    My better half has always advised me to write for myself, specifically to use my own voice, NOT to write as others do, and above all,– not to take writing courses because they train writers specifically to write like everyone else does! They can train away originality. This is wisdom at it’s finest.
    Food fights, word fights, wacky, woolly wonders and follies all –come from the mud between your toes, hell-raising, and a ‘here’s mud in ‘yer eye, kid!” attitude that we should be putting on paper. I could NOT agree more, M.J. ! Kudos to you.

    • We are definitely NOT cookie cutters, right Raymond…
      Oh, but then a cookie cutter does come in handy at times, doesn’t it?
      Don’t ever let them teach you how to write, but learn how to do it just the same. We never stop learning, do we? The real question is, how do we learn? For that matter, how do we teach? Oh, I’ve got much more to say on that subject – future articles for SoWrite perhaps…
      Best of the day to you, kind sir!

  4. I keep wishing for a Like Button, gang — you’re such an inspiring and creative bunch!
    PS: I’m typing this with MY TOES, so there!

  5. Now that sounds like one of the better uses for my toes that I’ve found. Lovely creative approach to the search for writing inspiration. Such a good point to write to please yourself – get those critical voices out of my head!

  6. “like a river, rushing in some spots, pooling in others, pushing past rocks, trees, foliage and debris (some of which is nothing more than litter), until finally they overflow into an overpowering rush – just like a waterfall readers can’t wait to dive into”

    That’s the kind of writing I want to encounter (and create)!

    Thanks for a visceral and startling read, the kind of post that makes me want to jump on the computer and belt out a great piece of writing.

    • Jim Bessey says

      …”Thanks for a visceral and startling read, the kind of post that makes me want to jump on the computer and belt out a great piece of writing.”
      Tough to think of a cooler compliment than this one, Dave. M.J. is offline this weekend, but I’m sure she’ll see your kind words Sunday evening.
      Having visited your site recently, I can attest to your beautiful writing — it’s thoughtful and introspective and filled with vivid images. I love inspired writing like yours and MJ’s, in all its expressions and styles.

    • Your artwork is truly stunning, Dave. Seems you’ve got many talents to share with us:) Can’t thank you enough for such amazingly kind words about my article. Here’s to an explosion of creative expression that simmers like a volcano, waiting to bubble up and slowly pour, red hot lava into worlds that can’t escape its power.

  7. Writing — true, honest to goodness writing – is about feeding the spirit, energizing the weary, and comforting the lonely.
    When I feel this way there is no finer place than to escape into my cave with words. I become deeply emerged, reading and freewriting in my journal until the weariness and loneliness have lifted. My spirit has been raised and I am re energized.

    • Jim Bessey says

      The ability of words — our own and those of other writers — to “transport us” is pretty fantastic, isn’t it, Priska? I cannot imagine life without books and a keyboard (or at least a paper and pencil).
      …”My spirit has been raised and I am re-energized.” So true, so true!

    • Embracing life, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it Priska? Diving in and using whatever talents we’ve been given, to live life, not just muddle through it. Writers do indeed “escape” into our words, words that have the power to not only transform us, but make a difference in the world around us, as well.

  8. I couldnt have said it any better to be honest! keep up the awesome work. You are very talented & I only wish I could write as good as you do 🙂 …

  9. Yes, I agree completely. It’s only recently that writing has started to energize me, because until a few weeks ago, I wrote for other people (e.g. reports for the boss, essay’s for the teacher, copywriting for traffic, etc…)

    • Ah yes, it is quite a quandary, isn’t it Amit, writing what we must vs. writing because we must? Pleasing the client vs. releasing our inner soul, right down to our toes…the business of writing requires different disciplines to address each individual need. It also helps us learn how to write, without letting anyone teach us how to write, a definite bonus when honing our skills. Thank you so much for this considerate reply 🙂

  10. As an advocate for living our creative life – this post is perfect. I think your point to write for yourself because if you don’t you are being your authenthic creative being. I learned to paint only for myself and not concern myself with what might be marketable. When I do this I sell much more work PLUS enjoy the process. When I haven’t followed this advice, I have sold some work but it was nothing I was proud of and it was a chore to create. I couldn’t keep up this charade. Be authenthic – live your unique creative voice.

    • M.J.’s wonderful article certainly has inspired!
      @Jane, I could not agree with you more. Be authentic, use your own voice and style regardless. Imitation of other artists and writers may be flattering, even clever at times–“writing (or painting) as others do” might be fine,–creating someone else’s vision as a custom order is fine, but ‘good’ mundane work does nothing for our individual and unique souls.
      We must dream, create and enjoy our own visions instead. Aspire to go higher, deeper and further at all times. I believe that creative people have a basic need to create and must do so.
      I have a favorite saying that sums it up nicely; “Self expression is a kindness to the soul that so invests”
      Is the ultimate satisfaction being totally pleased and satisfied with unique work we have created, regardless of genre, regardless of what others think about it? I believe it is.
      Marketability may be a different thing entirely.
      Having someone purchase a ‘routine, mundane’ article or painting might be good, cool and help the cash flow, —but having others standing in awe– buying a truly great work created from the depth of the soul, and having them genuinely sharing your vision, beauty, excitement and enjoyment— is a far more wonderful bonus and confirmation. “:) ~R

  11. Hey, we go where our strengths lead us. Creativity has always weighed down the scale in my life. Being true to myself (authentic, Jane), allows me to express myself in many different ways. Admittedly, much of my creative expression is done for others – you should taste some of the recipes I come up with for my family:) And my garden – talk about edible landscaping! Creative expression is what I do for me, the end result gets given to the crowd.
    I think that fits in very well with your favorite saying, Raymond. The trick is turn work into pleasure, my friend, something that ebbs and flows with the tide, I’m afraid.


  1. […] it’s probably not the lure of riches that drives us to write. Or boredom, or lack of alternatives. Not once in a million posts have I seen anyone on Facebook […]

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