“Dave, I find the ‘pouring’ aspect of writing so easy, and feel like pouring is my best writing. It flows so much better. But writing to explain–I find that tough. Painful even! But there are some posts I write that I need to explain. So perhaps it doesn’t mean the writing has less flow, less meaning, less quality? It’s just that it’s a different skill?”
— Alex in London
Writing with outcome in mind is completely different than pouring on the page, Alex. You’re right!
Pouring on the page is an act of catharsis — communion with our inner most feelings and emotional selves. When we shed guilt for feeling, wanting and desiring, and allow ourselves to fall into a creative state of total trust and non-judgment, the words simply pour out. It flows.
Pouring is powerful.
It’s an awakening experience for the conscious mind to witness subtle emotions and feelings in such a tangible way. All of a sudden, there they are. Right on the page. In physical form. You can see the feelings. You can touch the emotions. Etched in black ink on white paper.
So it’s no wonder why you feel connected to the flow of “pouring” on the page, Alex. :)
I feel the same way!
From working with 100+ creatives, a lot of writers fall in love with pouring for these same reasons. It’s magical. The process of writing is an act of deep self-discovery. Words emerge from you and you experience your presence acting like a conduit through which truth, or divine messages, or simple clarity, flow.
Pouring is intoxicating liberation from judgment, and bearing beautiful witness to inner emotion.
Writing to explain, or, with an outcome in mind, requires a completely different approach, intention and energy.
Because there’s an outcome you’re working towards, writing to explain requires a very different approach: forethought, planning, and understanding for whom you’re writing.
In other words?
You’re likely to find yourself completely frustrated and failing at articulating your thesis or opinion (or achieving whatever your intended outcome may be), by just sitting down, sensing your emotion/feelings, starting to flow, and hoping for the best.
Because that’s how you pour.
How you discover.
Writing to explain, you need a different energetic source that’s already within you.
Writing ‘to explain’ requires you derive your creative source from clear intention, sourced knowledge, will-power and ownership.
You gotta write from mind-matter.
Thought, wisdom and will-power. From knowledge and your sense of self/identity (or ego).
For creatives who adore the beauty of pouring, writing to explain something feels like muting the magic and experience of “witnessing” and replacing it with stuffy logic, rationality, over-planning, over-thinking.
Writing to explain does tend to feel stuffy, premeditated or over-planned.
But if you’re writing to explain something, you’re expected to explain it!
You’re taking a stand for something. And that requires backing it up.
So it’s no wonder why you, me and fellow creatives like us have a tenuous relationship with this form of writing, Alex.
It’s tougher. More fiery, direct and opinionated. Less fluid, free flowing, Aha!, “Writing to explain” is more deliberate: based on knowledge or opinion, reflecting your individualization, Self, ego-identity, who you are.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that writing with an outcome in mind needs to feel stuffy, overly logical, academic or without emotion.
But it’s risking frustration (or failure) to jump into an essay in which you intend to convince, convey, articulate, argue or assert opinion/belief by politely hoping that you’ll stumble onto answers — and, to boot, convince readers of your intentions.
Writing to explain is more deliberate than that.
It’s patient and calculated.
This source of expression derives its energy from your sense of Self (or ego), your knowledge, your personal experience, your beliefs and your opinions. Your goals for the piece need to find sturdy roots or anchors: a thesis statement, a clear argument.
And just like those old academic papers you used to write in school, your thesis will helped greatly by anchors throughout the piece like supporting evidence, anecdotal stories, reminders, case studies, examples, quotes, whatever!, just something that continually articulates the belief or objective that you’re writing about.
Pouring on the page is discover-as-you-write. Writing to explain is reinforce-as-you-write.
So Alex, “pouring” and “writing to explain” each have their place.
Different intentions and energy go into each of these forms of creative self-expression. They’re each very practical and powerful, but with different uses.
Find the middle ground. Start with your goal in mind. Lay some anchors (or points that will help you reinforce what you’re saying) and flow in between.
Hemingway said, “Write drunk, edit sober.”
Pouring onto the page is like writing drunk. It feels pretty damn good to let loose and let the words flow without judgment. Witnessing your inner most emotions express themselves on the page is truly a beautiful experience.
Writing to explain? That’s like editing sober.
When you’ve really got something important to share, you’ll want to tap that inner fire and lay out your belief, perspective, experience and wisdom. You’ll take a stand, put it out there, and explain it.
In between? Keep feeling, keep flowing, and keep pouring.