A lot of young people first come to creative writing because they have a burning desire to express themselves. Emotions are running high, ideas are flying, and opinions are in full supply. What better way to get it all off your chest than writing it down?
Self-expression is the heart and soul of all forms of creative writing from fiction and poetry to memoirs and essays. We combine our inner thoughts and feelings with what we perceive in the outer world and put it into words.
For some of us, self-expression couldn’t be easier. Give us a pen and a piece of paper and our ideas will come pouring out. For others, putting thoughts and feelings into clear, coherent sentences and paragraphs is a challenge. Everything comes out garbled, and only the writer can make sense of it.
Freedom and Self-Expression in Creative Writing
Sometimes self-expression comes across as little more than navel gazing, narcissism, or pontification. If we’re writing strictly for personal reasons, it doesn’t matter whether we write clearly or in a way that interests other people, but if we want to write professionally, to connect with an audience, our personal expressions must be clear and they must go beyond ourselves; they must resonate with readers.
Grammar and vocabulary are important: We need to communicate clearly when we’re writing for an audience. Personal shorthand, rambling, and bad grammar have to be reined in. When it’s difficult to put our thoughts and feelings into words, we need a bigger vocabulary. If we study the language and rules of written communication, then our written self-expression will be coherent and more likely to draw an audience.
Honesty is the best policy: The best writing is full of truth. Even fiction and poetry, however abstract or fantastical, contain a kind of honesty that comes from the writer being forthright. That means we must embrace who we are. We have to be ourselves. Don’t write what you think people want to hear and don’t hold back your personal truths.
Connect with readers: We’ve all read essays and poems that were all about me, me, me (me being the writer). You can certainly write an interesting piece about yourself (your thoughts, ideas, or experiences), but in order for people to find value in your writing, it has to include them in some way. You can write drafts for yourself, but during revision, give some thought to your readers. Why should they read this? How will they benefit from it?
Know your purpose: Why do you write? Do you have ideas you want to share? Are you trying to influence people’s opinions? Will you help people see the world from a fresh perspective? Is your goal to enlighten or entertain? A little of both? When you know why you’re writing, you’ll have a much better chance at writing something worthwhile.
How Do You Express Yourself?
I’ve come across a lot of writers who insist on the sheer pleasure or therapeutic value of self-expression through creative writing. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s healthy to give yourself a personal writing space that isn’t influenced by the thought of someone else reading what you’ve written. It’s also good writing practice, because there’s freedom in writing without inhibition. But what if you want to take your writing to the next level? What if you’re ready to turn your self-expressions into poems, stories, or essays that people will read?
When you write, do you think about how readers will respond? Do you plan your creative writing projects with an audience in mind or do you focus on self-expression? How much of yourself do you put into your writing?