By: Frank McKinley
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember.
When my peers were playing war with toy soldiers, I’d stay in my room and read and write. Every summer, I’d go to the library and check out a pile of books.
And every day after school, I’d sit and pour my heart into a notebook.
Call me weird if you want. But since you’re here reading this, I’ll bet you’re a little odd, too.
And that’s perfectly fine.
Writing Kept Me Alive
Life’s tough when you’re a kid.
Playground bullies hounded me as a child. I was an easy target since I kept to myself and rarely spoke. I had a few friends, but most of them lived on the pages of my favorite stories.
I wrote to escape into a better world, a world where I could be a hero. In that world, people loved me for who I really was – not some sycophant who strives to fit in and plays by the rules.
That world felt like heaven.
The public schools in my neighborhood bothered my parents; so to alleviate the pain, they enrolled me in a private Christian school.
The First Day of a Rude Awakening
It’s hard enough being 11.
The first day at that new school was scary. I had no friends. I was painfully shy. The kids in the hall were too busy chatting to notice me or say hello.
If that wasn’t bad enough, my third-period teacher ruined everything. After a few introductory remarks that I can’t recall, Mr. Ford instructed us to “turn in your Bibles to second Chronicles.”
I extracted the crumpled Gideon New Testament from my jeans pocket. I muttered, “I wonder if this Bible has Chronicles in it.”
Thinking no one would hear me, Mr. Ford’s voice bellowed in my ears.
“YOU BE QUIET!”
I looked up and saw my teacher’s cold blue eyes, which burned a hole into my soul.
I was speechless.
So were my classmates.
My Creative Life Began When I Was Left for Dead
When the bell rang, my classmates left as if nothing had happened. No one asked me if I was okay. No one laughed at me. It was like I didn’t even exist. I didn’t tell my parents about the experience, because I was afraid they didn’t care either.
What I did though was fill countless pages for the next 12 years. By writing every day, I learned to articulate my feelings. I gained a broader perspective on life. And I stayed alive when I thought I’d rather die.
Do you know what the best thing was? When I wrote, I was free.
I didn’t have to impress anyone, and could entertain my wildest ideas, and no one would criticize me. That meant that I could write poetry, essays, stories, or streams of consciousness. I could make my own rules, break them, and make new rules.
Nothing brought me more joy and satisfaction. Nothing.
The Day I Went Public
In high school, we were required to write stories or poems for the annual Fine Arts Festival. I submitted stories at first. But honestly, I had no idea how to write stories that satisfied English teachers.
So, on a whim, one year, I spent 15 minutes writing two poems and submitted them.
To my surprise, I won third place in the school.
The next year, I spent 20 minutes writing two poems and won first place.
It was then that I knew I had a talent and not just an outlet.
Was I lucky? Did I have a special gift? Neither. I spent countless hours, day after day, year after year, writing my heart out.
You can, too.
How Daily Writing Changed My Life
I wrote every day, whether I felt like it or not.
Part of it was the force of habit.
Most of it was fun like sports, or video games were for my peers. It gave me a creative outlet. I could retreat into a world where there were no limits, and anything was possible.
Now that I’m older, writing still has benefits. Here are a few of them that I’ve found that will probably apply to you, too.
1. Exploring Thoughts on a Topic
As an introvert, I’ve always got something on my mind. The problem is I can’t depend on my short term memory to keep all those thoughts within reach. So I give myself a word, a phrase, a topic, or a question to ponder and set a timer.
While the timer is ticking, I write down everything that comes to mind. I don’t worry about what order my thoughts come out. I don’t concern myself with grammar and typos. (Okay, maybe a little.) I just dig deep and try to beat the clock.
If I run out of time and still have more to say, I set the timer again and continue filling the page.
Afterward, I take a break.
2. Morning Writing Cleanses Your Brain
Got something weighing you down? Write it out. Be honest. Don’t hold back. You’re the only one who’s going to see this, so spill your guts. When you do, listen to the voices in your head. Does what they’re saying make sense? Or is it the ravings of a lunatic? Maybe you’re just hurt and blowing future possibilities out of proportion.
Take a moment and look at your writing as a third person. Imagine a friend was going through what you are. What advice would you give? You can’t do this if you keep all your stress in your head.
Morning confessions can do your whole body good.
3. Test Drive Your Ideas Before You Go Public
When you’re alone at your desk, you can explore a universe of possibilities. Explore the stuff you’re too afraid to explore in public. Follow the rabbit trails into the forbidden zone.
- Is it really as dark there as people say?
- Is your industry’s conventional wisdom rock solid, or are there cracks in it?
When you find something that looks like gold, do some research. Is it really as valuable as it seems? Is there something people are overlooking that they should know right now?
Share that, and you’ll stand out in a crowded universe of ideas.
4. Writing Daily Makes You Faster
If you’ve been running marathons for ten years, you won’t have to train extra to run another one.
When you write every morning, you’ll write faster when you’re on assignment.
Then you can publish more books, more blog posts, and make more money.
5. Daily Writing is a Great (and Safe) Way to Get Rid of Stress
When your boss wants you to do your work and your absent coworker’s, you might feel like he just handed you a backpack full of boulders.
When the mortgage is due, and your car needs an expensive repair, you might be ready to run off to a tropical island forever.
We all need an outlet for stress. Otherwise, it can build up and fill our heads with crazy notions. You’re thinking so much about the circumstance that you lose your appetite, stay awake every night, and ruin your best relationships.
Why not attack your stress first thing in the morning?
6. Putting that Stress to the Test
Pretend your stress is on trial. You’re the prosecuting attorney. Listen to its accusations. Are they true? Make your stress into a person, the defendant on the stand.
- “Is that really true?”
- “Are you absolutely certain that is what happened?”
- “Is it not possible you could be mistaken?”
- “And is it not true that your real intent is to prevent my client from living the life of her dreams?”
Have fun with this. Make Mr. Stress cower in his chair. Make him stammer and doubt his own assertions.
Then turn to the jury and assure them that your client (you) is innocent of all the charges and that the case should be dismissed.
See if you don’t have a better day after that.
Make Morning Writing Work For You
There’s no time to start like now.
If you can’t start this morning, start tomorrow. Or tonight. Just do it. Find a time that works for you every day and let the words flow.
Already a morning writer? Feel free to share what it’s done for you. Your experience might encourage others about what’s possible.
Bio: Frank McKinley
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing
When did you start writing? How have you improved your writing over the years? Do you write poems, prose, a how-to for writers and bloggers? Anything related to writing is what Two Drops of Ink is looking for in guest submissions.