It’s inevitable. When I launch a new Writing to Change 101 non-fiction class series, I get nervous-but-excited students signing up, many of whom are well into adulthood and have itched to write their entire lives. They want to tell their stories in one way or another, and all have stories to tell.
Many of them have had trouble sitting down long enough to write a few sentences, or they fear they won’t be any good, or they fear that somebody either will or won’t read their work. In many cases, they just don’t know how to get started. They know there’s at least one good story resting inside themselves, but they don’t know how to pull it out.
I send them a list comprised mostly of award-winning stories my paper has published, and then they show up and gather around the table. We talk about their obstacles, do some warm-up free writing, and then I get to the “writing process” part. And each time, I know many of them will be shocked by the second step on the sheet.
The first step is easy. They need an idea. Most of them have more of them, at least vague ones, than they know what to do with.
The second step on the list is “report.” This is where the fear sets in and, sometimes, the protestations.
“I’m not here to be a reporter,” one or another might say.