Curious Discovery

Years ago, when I started writing this column on a daily basis, a regular reader asked how I found something to say about writing five days a week. I found the question difficult to answer. I didn’t actually know how I did it, I just did it, which as a teacher isn’t any kind of answer at all. So I said something about trust, which I knew was at least in the vicinity of the answer. The full answer, however, kept nagging at me like a story that wanted to be finished. The more students and clients I’ve worked with since that reader asked me his question, the more I’ve come to understand that my first impulsive answer was in many ways the most accurate. That is, I was able to write prolifically when I understood that I didn’t have to know what I was going to write about. In creative writing, I had found a subject about which I remained interested on a daily basis. I saw the act of writing as a clear metaphor for life itself, for the every day and every moment creative act of choosing and choosing what to think and do and say next, just as I must choose and choose every next word on the page. All I needed to do was sit down and think about what had caught my attention recently, either in my domestic life or my writing life. If I’m awake, something is always catching my attention. My job then was to describe what had caught my attention and follow it where it wanted to go.

This, I know, is the part that’s hard to describe. This is the mysterious part, and the part I most look forward to while writing. This is the discovery. Without the discovery, I couldn’t stay interested. Which is why it’s so important that I not know what I am going to write specifically. It’s like imposing a kind of willful innocence on myself. As an adult, I like to think I know a lot of stuff and how to get where I’m going and what to do and why things happen. As a writer I must forget all this knowing and see the world as a child would, with a curiosity unburdened by judgment.

Though in truth I’m a bit like parent and child while writing. The parent in me knows that the answer to every question a story asks is: Everything is okay. That is something I’ve learned as an adult that I only suspected a child. Interestingly, I write a little less about writing these days because I have found a new metaphor in parenting. No matter; it’s all life anyway. My only job is to wake up and pay attention and be curious about what I’ll discover today.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group coaching.


Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write With Confidence. You can find William at:

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