This week’s Wednesday Words of Wisdom come from Sylvia Plath about finding material everywhere in life. The big question is often: what do I write about? I’ve heard different pieces of advice about this such as “write what you know” or “write about what you love” but while these are good rules of thumb, I believe that with a little research and creativity, we can write about anything.
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” -Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
The way I interpreted this quote was that you can write about anything and turn it into a story. At the moment, I’m reading Stephen King’s collection of short stories called, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams. (As you can probably tell on this blog, I’m a fan of Stephen King and his work.) Before each story, he gives a short explanation of what inspired him to write that story. After reading a few of them, I realized that if you give a story enough of a personal touch, combined with an interesting plot and characterization, you can write about anything.
As Sylvia Plath says, all it takes is the guts and imagination to do it. First, you’ve gotta have the courage to write it. Next, you’ve got to be able to improvise and fill in the gaps where you need to within the story. In a way, writing is comparable to an actor giving a performance on stage.
In theatre, everything happens in the moment and each live show is different from the next. The actors have the script to go by but there’s always room for the unexpected, for elaboration and for improvisation. There are unexpected situations, whether that’s due to an audience interruption, faulty lighting or sound equipment, or mistakes on the part of the actors themselves.
As Anne Lamott said of perfectionism, self-doubt can also stifle your creativity. If an actor rolls with the punches and works with the unexpected, they have the opportunity to innovate, re-interpret and re-create in those moments of improvisation. In the same way, if a writer accepts that there will be bumps in the road and they play it by ear along the way, they can fully engage in their creative potential.
That’s not to say I don’t think research and accuracy is key– I do. But not everyone will be a subject matter expert on everything and we shouldn’t have to get too caught up in the small details because in the end it’s the story that matters. If you combine imagination, improvisation and personal touches to your story, I think you can really create something enjoyable for people.