Stop Doubting and Start Writing

“When I write,” Kurt Vonnegut famously said, “I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.” We all feel that way when we set out to do something truly important. I doubt that Vonnegut ever believed his writing achieved as much as he wanted it to. But it changed a lot of things, all over the world. For one thing, it changed a Mormon girl growing up in Provo, Utah. It changed me.

The best parts of my childhood were made of books. That’s why, as I grew up, I came to see every task as trivial compared to sacred process of writing. Written language is such a huge magic, such a magnificent castle to explore with our minds, that it’s both magnetic to me, and scary as hell. The first time I had to write a poem for school, I didn’t sleep for five nights. They had to put me on Valium. But after that—even when the Valium ran out—I found that I felt much, much better when I continued writing. Writing became my sanctuary, my trusted friend.

Do you feel this way too? If so, I have some good news, and some bad news.

Bad news first: Those of us who know we’re supposed to write can no longer afford the luxury of procrastination. The world is a freaking mess, have you noticed? The madmen are running the asylum. Monstrous narcissism and lethal short-sightedness dominate every sort of social pyramid. Earth’s ecosystems are failing. Something has to change.

Now the good news: WE CAN CHANGE THINGS! ALL THE THINGS! We can change them in our pajamas! We just have to use the full, healing magic of writing.

For decades, I’ve been devising ways to use writing as a two-stage healing process. First, I use different strategies to “write inward,” discovering and expressing truths I didn’t know I knew. Then I find the flow reversing direction, finding different strategies to “write outward,” sending my newly discovered truth out to help someone—anyone—else.

Writing, you see, is equal-opportunity magic. It loves us all.

I believe with all my heart that if we use writing in this way, we can fix almost everything have broken. I know it’s an audacious belief, but what the hell, writing is audacious magic. One clear thought, powerfully phrased, can literally change history. You don’t have to create a book. Your message can be on a blog, or a tweet, or a damn T-shirt. But you have to write it.

I can sense you out there, feeling armless and legless, mouthing your one pathetic crayon. You probably feel like your crayon isn’t even the right color. Dear one, we all feel that way. IT DOESN’T MATTER. The time has come to stop doubting, and start writing.

Need community to cheer you on? Join the Write Into Light Teleseries. Need a role model? Read great writing. Need a reason? Look around. As Toni Morrison says, “There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”

So put fear aside, my brave world-healer. Wriggle your way over to the nearest wall. Take your crayon firmly in your lips. Begin.

8 replies
  1. Jen
    Jen says:

    If I sign up to one more course my husband will probably have a stroke 😉

    I'll keep writing my blog and designing t-shirts.

    As always, thanks for your light Martha. xxx

    Reply
  2. Shareen
    Shareen says:

    I just saw the class Write Into the Light. It says it is sold out. Is there no way I can join and listen to previous classes to get caught up?
    Thank you.

    Reply
  3. A. Denefield Jones
    A. Denefield Jones says:

    Awesome read. Once I made the decision, I dedicated myself to writing something every day. "Just put something to paper or type up words," I told myself. And sure enough, I find myself immersed in a beautiful habit that allows me to share something to the world, while providing me with a daily, cathartic experience. Thanks for this post, and reminding me why I enjoyed Kurt Vonnegut's stories growing up.

    Reply
  4. Brie Lewis
    Brie Lewis says:

    I feel like I need to read this post twenty times. It's so easy to get bogged down by life and forget the magical power you have inside. Love the reminder to trust in yourself. And the reminder that everyone doubts themselves. The important thing to remember is to keep writing and trusting. Thank you for this post!

    Reply

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