“When I start writing, I can’t stop. The words just come and come, and I can write for pages. This ends up producing big volumes of text that I don’t want to go through again and re-arrange into structured ideas, cause that part is NOT fun for me and does not feel creative.
“On the other hand, if I try to structure it beforehand, I get frustrated by having to do that, cause I have the feeling I’m never getting to the fun part of it, which is WRITING and allowing the words to come through me. For me, the whole point is for my writing to be of some use and comprehensible and structured so that people can get something out of it, but it feels I have so much to say that it just pours out of me when I start. It’s so much easier to talk, even though I have the same issue of having ‘too much’ to say… Any practical tips?”
— Henrika in Helsinki
It sounds to me like you’re “pouring,” Henrika!
So far as we’re concerned here, there are two methods of writing that you’re referring to: one is “writing to explore,” and the other is “writing to explain.” I refer to writing to explore as “pouring,” and writing to explain as “telling.”
Writing to explain (or “telling”) means that you have a concrete thesis, point, idea or argument that you want to prove, convey or share from before you start writing. You usually take a more “structured” approach when you know that there’s a specific argument or story that you want to share.
Writing to explore, however, is like pouring from a big jug.
You’re unfurling ideas, emotions, thoughts, beliefs onto the page. Whenever you have an excess of “stuff” in your jug (your head, your heart, your soul, or all of the above), you might feel called to express it (to pour and pour and pour onto the page without rhyme or reason).
The power of pouring is that it’s an incredible energetic release of a buildup of creative or expressive tension. It’s also completely therapeutic–a cathartic release. When you pour all of that energy out, your many ideas, thoughts, emotions and questions can find some peace, coherence and order now that they’re no longer swirling within you, and instead are in physical form on the page.
The big thing of importance for you, Henrika, is that you honor your pouring.
You’re in a state right now that is calling for you to pour, to release, to express as much as you can.
So pour for as long as you can do it.
Your first goal is to just get the writing out–that’s honoring what you’re personally feeling, energetically, creatively, emotionally.
Your second goal is to reflect on what it is that you are pouring after you’ve poured it. What are you seeing yourself write? Why? What are the words reflecting about your energetic self, your creative self, your mental-emotional self? What is the voice of the “Unapologetic You” within attempting to share with your conscious mind from deep down within your soul?
Your third goal is, long after you’ve done your pouring, ask yourself if there are any important lessons from your poured pages that you could rewrite, rephrase, or retell in ways that might directly and personally help someone else in a similar situation. This is the process that you might feel is “too structured,” but instead I ask you to consider it not a matter of being structured or unstructured but rather a mindset that is more focused, intentional, and thus responsible for how you’re hoping to share a message with another human being.
Pouring (writing to self-explore) and telling (writing to explain) each have important roles and purposes.
Explore each to understand what your own creative process prefers, but don’t neglect the other if you can appreciate a meaningful purpose to the other method.
There are two side-by-side paths that we walk in life–and a creative person walks them just as much as anyone else.
The first path is self-realization. We write to self-explore to help us self-actualize. Writing and creativity are forms of discovery that help us nurture and coax out that Unapologetic Self beneath our skin. It’s a lifelong process, because we’re always changing and evolving.
The second path is that of service. This is the giving, leadership, business, family life, teaching, hand-holding and community-building part of life that is what makes living so meaningful. The “telling” form of writing, or writing “to explain,” is the service-oriented form of communication that is important for helping us help others.
Henrika, get your ideas out. Express for the sake of expressing.
Enjoy the art of the pour, and spill everything you’ve got–if only to see what you’re saying.
Right now, you’re being called to pour yourself onto the page. Don’t worry for a moment about editing, revising or restructuring your ideas–that can come later, if at all.
Right now, all that matters is honoring your calling to express (not explain), and step more and more into the truth that will make itself known as you transmute ideas, beliefs and more into physical form on the page.