The Beautiful Torture of Writing & Tattoos, & How to Overcome the Fear of Getting Started
I’ve never gotten a tattoo because I have commitment issues. How could I possibly find a design or a saying that I’d love for the rest of my life? I’ve thought about getting a Bible verse tattooed on my hand or wrist, but there are so many I love, how could I possibly pick just one? If I did get a tattoo, I’d probably get tired of the font I chose, or the colors, or where I put it on my body. (I might overthink things too.)
Tattoos are permanent, and I kinda like to change things up. But I understand why people like them. They are a reflection of who that person is and an expression of what they value.
We write, or we stamp, and we put it out there for the world to judge. It shows who we are and what we value. They both require you to roll up your sleeve and show the world what’s underneath. It takes a lot of guts to do both.
I spent many years wanting to write but struggled to overcome my own fears. I wrestled with what to write, how to write, who was I to write, and when was there time to write? This year, I’ve committed to “doing it afraid.”
If you’re interested in writing here are some things I’ve learned. Even if you’re afraid, don’t let your fears keep you from getting started.
What to Write?
“Write what you know.”Mark Twain
- What do you know? Make a list of everything you know enough about to teach to someone else. Don’t fall for the lie that you’re not an “expert,” so you’re not qualified to talk about it. Here’s a little secret. A lot of online teachers are just one or two steps ahead of their students. They don’t have their whole blog content planned out, or all their online materials already built. They’re just a few steps ahead…and brave enough to step out in front. You can do this too!
- What do others say about you? Ask your friends and family what they think you know a lot about. (Sometimes we can be blind to what others perceive our strengths to be.) If you’re still unsure what you should focus on, start journaling, or go back and read your old ones. You might discover themes that keep popping up and you need to explore more.
- Who do you admire and why? We often think that our work has to be 100% original, but that’s not true. There’s nothing new under the sun, and everyone draws inspiration from somewhere. Find writers you admire and study their style. Can you identify what you like about them? Do you like her fun, light-hearted approach to writing? Does he string words together so you visualize the scene? Does she keep you engaged the whole time you’re reading? When you know what you like, and why you like it, you can use that as a point of inspiration, and adapt it to fit your own voice and vibe.
How to Write?
“Reading maketh a full man; Conference a ready man; And writing an exact man.”Francis Bacon
- Practice, practice, practice! Write every day. It’s nearly impossible to not get better when you put in your time.
- Don’t be boring. Grab your reader’s attention in the first sentence. Ask yourself, “Would I keep reading if this was someone else’s sentence?” Does it make me want to read the next sentence, and then the next?
- Be ruthless in your editing. Consider each word and each sentence. Is it really necessary? Does it help bolster your points? If you can say it in 8 words instead of 10, say it in 8.
- Headlines are money. Copywriters love this quote by David Ogilvy and for good reason. He said, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” Would you click your own headline if someone else wrote it? Entice your reader with an attention-grabbing headline, and then follow through on your promise.
- Read it out loud. Don’t publish until you’ve read your piece out loud at least 2 or 3 times without stumbling. If you get tongue-tied over a word or two, that means your reader might stumble there too. Edit away!
- Read it backward. Read the last paragraph first, and then the second to last, until you get to the beginning. Does it still make sense? Did you deliver on the promise of your headline?
- Make it scannable. As much as we want our readers to read every word, most won’t. Format your piece so that someone can get the gist of your piece from your headings and bullets. Think of formatting as an accessory to your outfit. It’s not the first thing you should see, but you should notice it. You want it to enhance the piece but not detract from it. A well-formatted piece supports and guides the reader, while a poorly formatted piece can be overwhelming or distracting.
Who Am I to Write?
“Writing is a skill, not a talent, and this difference is important because a skill can be improved by practice.”Robert Stacy McCain
- Stop comparing. There are some people that make writing look easy and fabulous. We love what these writers have to say, but at the same time, we kinda hate them for saying it better than we ever could. I think of Peter on the beach with Jesus after the resurrection asking what was going to happen to John? Jesus said, “If it is my will that he remains until I come, what is that to you? You follow me” (John 21:22)! In other words, dear writer friend, mind your own business. Keep your eyes on Jesus, and don’t worry about what he or she’s doing. You follow him.
- It’s ok to be a nobody. Unfortunately, writing in our modern world requires an element of self-promotion. This is the icky part especially when we’re writing for the Lord, and we just want our words to go forth and bless others. In our hearts, we don’t want it to be about us, but we also want to know that what we’re doing is valuable to someone else.
John the Baptist said of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). When we can get ‘self’ out of the mix, and focus on loving God and loving others through our work, we can let the Lord decide on our fruitfulness.
When Is There Time to Write?
“You don’t find time to write. You make time.”Nora Roberts
- Recognize your seasons. Some seasons of life lend themselves to more time to pursue writing than others. If you’re longing for more time to write, than you currently have, pray about it! Ask God to help you carve out some time to dedicate to your craft.
- Take time to refill. We can’t give what we don’t have. Input is as important as the output. Read books. Take a bath. Go on a walk. Spend time with your family and friends. Do the things that fill you up so that you have a place from which to draw in your writing.
A Good Hurt
Writing, like getting a tattoo, hurts.
Author Flannery O’Connor said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” Good writing seems effortless, but it was rarely so for the writer. Why do we do put ourselves through this torture?
Because when you finally arrive at that place where your words reflect your heart, it feels really good. It feels even better when someone says, “Yes! That’s how I feel too!”
From what I’ve observed it’s rare to stop after getting one tattoo. After all, there’s so much real estate to cover! Likewise, can you really say all you have to say in one blog post?
It’s ok to write scared. Join the club, roll up your sleeves and get ready to bare your soul. This might hurt a little bit, but it will be good. Promise!
“Write” there with you,
P.S. Do you wonder how to balance your writing (or work goals), and the rest of your life? I’ve created this resource “How to Adopt a Holy Leisure Mindset for Your Work” to help you do just that. I also offer services to help. Curious? It’s free, check it out today!
This is so good! Great wisdom, practical ideas and insights. Keeping a blog interesting and fresh is a struggle for me – but I love the invitation to do it afraid with imperfection. Thanks for continuing to inspire me in all you are and write!
You’re so sweet, Cara! Thank you! I feel the struggle to keep things fresh and interesting too. I think the best approach is an authentic one of being in process vs. having arrived. Cuz’ that’s where we’re all at, anyway. 🙂
Cara, I really enjoyed this post. i always enjoy your comments about writing in our group and i found these comments so helpful as well. i can identify so much with flannery o’conner’s quote. i know that not everyone works that way, but i certainly do. i’ll have to get your resource. thanks so much. martha
Thanks, Martha! I love the Flannery quote too! I find that writing is an act of “becoming”. We have to figure out exactly what we believe and say it in a way that makes sense to someone else. It is torture indeed. 😛
I have read a lot of articles and blog posts about blogging. I am constantly writing, mostly in a notebook. I am also in seminary seeking an apologetics degree (which is what I actually want to write about). I loved your line “It’s OK to write scared.” I’ve been getting high grades on my papers, especially in my writing class . It shocks me every time because I didn’t think I had done so well. I’m taking a breakthrough summer to finally start publishing on my blog. And I am scared to death. I’ve owned my domain since 2018. I’ve just never had courage. My graduate work is helping. But I think the rest is up to me. This post has been so helpful. Probably because you understand being busy, desiring to write, and being scared. I will definitely be following your blog and I’m looking forward to learning from your experience. God bless.
I’m so glad you’re here, Karen, and you’re finding the encouragement to write scared! It’s such a process for me every time, but even when it’s scary or hard, or unknown…it’s still so very good! Thank you for your comment!