“No thinking – that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is… to write, not to think!” –Sean Connery in Finding Forrester
I started writing seriously when I was in 10th grade after watching the movie Finding Forrester, and now 10 years later after thousands of pages of writing and dreaming a book finally emerged. I began writing because I was inspired by a story, and I continued writing because somewhere along the way I realized that writing helped me make sense of the world. At first I would spend long periods of time sitting and thinking about what I should say, and all the while I would have before me a blank screen or unmarked page. I was used to writing for classes where every sentence and paragraph were meticulously thought through and structured. I was used to 5 paragraph essays and multiple drafts. Writing was work. Writing was wearisome with a looming deadline drawing nearer. I only knew how to write with my mind. There was no real heart involved, only the desire for a good grade.
Forrester’s words ring true in my own story and in the stories of those I have talked to. For most people, writing is connected with school or their jobs. There is the occasional thank you note, but writing is not an activity of the heart. Writing is informational and dry because it is predominantly an exercise of the mind. The heart and soul and passion have been stripped away.
For most of my life I have never thought of myself as an artist. In spite of having a Father who is a professional painter, those genes somehow seemed to skip me. I was a roaring disappointment to every art teacher I ever had. In my memory there is one pastel picture of a Tucan which shines out as a bright spot amidst all my other failed attempts, but I have nothing to prove it isn’t more than a glorified memory. It wasn’t until writing Finding Tom that I had a moment of revelation where, for the first time, I saw myself as an artist. I paint pictures with words. I used a pen rather than a paint brush. I began with a blank page rather than a blank canvas from which to tell my story and bring beauty to the world. A writer who has learned to write from their heart first is truly an artist.