Creative Writing/Pen Pal

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Question
Hello Brian. I was wondering if you might be able to offer me some tips or advice. I have always loved to write. When I was in high school I took advanced English classes, and always received very good grades. People were always complimenting me on my writing, but I am a perfectionist and I am super hard on myself. I was critical of everything I wrote, and eventually it stopped being fun. I have written anything in a long time. I thought a good way to get back into writing would be to get myself a pen pal. I thought it would be fun and interesting, and maybe a little less intimidating. After months of searching, I finally found someone that appeals to me. It appears that we have a lot of things in common. So I sent him a note just briefly introducing myself, and he wrote back. Now I am tasked with writing that first letter, and while I am excited about the prospect of making a new friend, I am also very nervous. I am very shy, and have never been very good at socializing and making friends. I am disabled, and don't leave the house often, so my opportunities to meet new people are very limited. I am lonely, which is another reason I thought it would be nice to have someone to write to and share things with. The problem is that I am afraid I might bore him. I don't lead the most exciting life, in fact it's pretty routine and predictable. I do however have a great love of books, and am very well-read. I keep up with current events, and can hold a conversation on a wide range of topics. But I am not sure how to write a letter that he will find interesting and engaging. I want my letter to be original and creative, and I also want to have fun with this. But I put so much pressure on myself and am so critical of myself that every time I go to write anything (even an e-mail!) I get anxious and stressed out. Anyway, I realize you are not a therapist! LOL I basically would just like it if you could give me some ideas on how to spice up my letter, and make it interesting. I would so appreciate any advice or suggestions you may have to offer. Thank you in advance for your time Brian.

Sincerely,

Marie

Answer
Hi Marie!

First of all, sorry to get back to you so late, but thanks for your patience!

I find your dilemma kind of... interesting.  And I mean that in a very good way.  I find it interesting because although you expressed some trepidation at writing another individual because he might find you boring, somehow I doubt you felt that trepidation when writing me!  And yet, I'm also a person who might judge you.  I wonder why that is?  ;)

Writing to a pen pal is a fantastic idea, but I think there was something you didn't take into consideration: pen pal correspondence isn't about good writing.  In fact, being a good writer isn't even that important.  It's about communication skills.  This is a good thing!  It means you get to kill two birds with one stone.  So really, you have more than enough skill at writing already, you don't need to worry about that.  What you need to work on is how to interact with another person, and pen pal writing is a good way to start: you can focus on what you're good at (writing) and take your time with it.

So the key question is how not to be boring or, to put a more helpful and positive spin on it, how to be interesting!

I can remember when I was young, I had tons of pen pals.  That was probably my biggest fear as well: I don't DO anything, how can I be interesting?  Until I actually started actively doing it and I realized something: nobody really "does" anything, at least not every day!  Exciting moments are exciting because they are so rare.  Most of us don't do anything all that exhiliarting all the time.

But you're missing something: guess what else is exciting besides activities?  Ideas!  You say you're well-read and you keep up with current events.  Then I'm sure you have lots of ideas that most other people don't have.  I'm sure you have lots of knowledge and opinions that this guy has never heard before, and may not have a chance to hear again.

But even more central to being a good communicator.  Do you know what everyone's absolute favorite topic is?  You can probably guess: themselves.  This was probably the biggest catalyst for me, realizing that the person on the other end was anxious to share themselves with someone who cared, someone who listened.  You can be that person.  Become interesting by BEING INTERESTED.  :)

The final thing I'd like you to take with you is this: you cannot force creativity and originality.  No great writer ever sat down to write something and said "ok brain, produce something novel for me at my command."  Instead, they did something much more basic, much more necessary.  They sat down and they just wrote.  That is the only thing within your control: you can write, or not write.  You'll have as many off days as you will on days, but when you're on, when it's just flowing, you won't be able to explain it, it will "just happen."  But it can't if you don't let it.

So write.  :)

Creative Writing

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Brian Connelly

Expertise

I can answer questions about how to start writing creatively, how to keep motivated to finish a creative writing project or write creatively on a consistent basis, how to come up with creative writing ideas and how to improve creative writing in general.

Experience

My university major was English literature, and I've been a (mostly) amateur writer for about 20 years.

Publications
Quill Books Poetry Anthology Local Alaskan newspaper

Education/Credentials
Bachelor's in English Literature (North Carolina State University)

Awards and Honors
Editor's choice award for one short story and one poem Three published poems in national anthologies

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