If you ask most writers what it takes to be a writer their advice will distil down to two things:
- Sit down and write
- Keep doing it – over and over again.
It’s glib and uninspiring advice, but it’s true. Writing is hard. There is no way around it. So why do we do it?
Every writer will have a different answer to this, but here’s the best writing tip of all. If you find out your ‘why’ then you will be fortified enough to keep sitting down to write and to continue doing it no matter the setbacks, rejection letters and disappointments that make up the fabric of a writer’s reality.
It took me more than a decade to figure out my ‘why’ and I realized it came down to this; I’m a writer because I’m crap at ballet!
This revelation came to me during a concert. It was one of those first post-pandemic gigs were just watching people clap in unison was enough to bring a lump to my throat. The emotion I felt was drawn by a wonderment of four hundred people in an auditorium all appreciating the same thing. It was something I’d never noticed before the pandemic, had taken for granted, I suppose, but when I unpacked what we as a collective were doing, I thought it was so powerful. All that energy being released by everyone at the same time was magical. The musician was wonderful, a local guy we’d gone to school with, playing traditional Irish music blended with South American influences. The audience loved it. I looked around as we applauded and saw the sheer joy on everyone’s faces, and I thought, ‘I wish I could do that.’
It reminded me of how I felt after I’d watched ballet on TV as a little girl. I was so inspired by how the ballet had made me feel, that I wanted to be a ballerina. I wanted to dance and make others feel the same way these dancers had made me feel. I even practised my made-up ballet moves behind the sofa, standing on tippy toes and stretching out arms and legs at what I perceived to be graceful angles, but ballet lessons were an unknown thing in Armagh back in the mid-seventies. Needless to say, I never did become a ballerina and I had to resort to another way to share what inspired me.
As an adult, I often felt that same rush of wanting to share what inspired me. Travel finally gave me that push. I began by emailing my friends telling them about things that I’d seen, felt, and experienced and that’s how I started writing… It’s like an addiction. I need to write. I need to share and attempt to provoke the same emotion I’m feeling in others.
So I write to raise an emotional response whether it’s humour, wonder, sorrow, joy, or anything in-between. Keeping this forefront and centre of my practice helps me get past the doldrums. Then something nice happens that refuels the inspiration, like a nice review, an acceptance letter or someone asking you to guest blog.
The bottom line is the ‘how’ to writing is to sit down and do it over and over again but the ‘why’ to writing is a mysterious force of nature, and figuring it out will help you with the ‘how’.
Check out Byddi’s books here.
Byddi Lee writes novels, flash fiction, and short stories. She co-founded Flash Fiction Armagh, and co-edits The Bramley – An Anthology of Flash Fiction Armagh. Along with two other members of the Armagh Theatre Group, Byddi also writes plays.