Friday, September 12, 2014

A Glimpse Inside

If I’m going to write a blog about writing—and more importantly my experiences with the craft—I think it’s fair to first let you, dear readers, into my head a little. Perhaps offering a glimpse into what the writing process is like for me will be illuminating for the both of us. If nothing else, I get to talk about myself for a few paragraphs, and I’m okay with that.

 After a little bit of digging, I managed to find a short piece I wrote a few years back about what writing was like for me when I was first starting out (I don’t know why I thought I was qualified to offer any insights into writing, nor do I know why I felt anyone cared, but I did it, so that’s what happened). And I think it’s safe to say that while my writing has improved over the years, my thoughts on the subject have not changed a great deal: I am still full of the insecure fears that plagued me when I first started. The only real difference is that now, armed with a couple of tricks and the self-reassurance that first drafts usually are garbage,  I find myself a tad more equipped to handle myself against the blank white page. Take a look below but be gentle—you’re in my head, after all. At the very least, wipe your damn feet.

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For me, the time spent at the keyboard in front of the blank page is horror—a world full of fear. Fear of having nothing interesting to say. Fear of giving up. Fear of not being good enough. Sometimes it feels so utterly impossible a thing to create what was never there before. I have no recollection of ever being able to do it with any sort of confidence, and, even worse, if by some chance I had been able to do it, I have no hope of ever being able to do it again. But still I try. I have to. To not would be suicide. So I start, fingers poised over the keys, waiting on some brilliant flash of genius to flow through me and make what I'm trying to do seem like a gift from God, rather than a craft that requires hard work, sweat, and a willingness to fail and fall flat on your face more times than any sane person would ever care to endure.

The divine flash never comes—it never has and never will. If I’ve learned anything since I began writing, it is this: Writers are not mediums. They do not channel inspiration; they find it and excavate it. They are creators and determined hard workers. The successful ones are willing to show up every day and put in the hours. That’s it. So I will start, as I always do, the only way I know how: one key at a time, which turns into one word, which becomes a sentence. A few of those and we’re in business. Hey, this ain’t so bad, after all. But I forget we’re just getting started.

I'm in a room now, an impossibly dark and deep room. This place is my writing space, and the time away from it has been like staring into the sun for days: It’s dulled my vision, made me blind, and made this dim space I've spent so much time in appear darker and more foreign than it truly is. But there is a feeling, a knowing that this space has light—or at least the promise of it. So I do the only thing I can: I start moving around the room, clumsy and slow at first. We must crawl before we can walk, I tell myself. So I crawl, desperately but steadily. Finally, after banging my shin on a few things, stubbing a toe or two, the risk pays off, and I find a wall—something familiar to lean on. It isn't much, but it's enough to give me hope. It's a feeling I've felt before and grown to love. I continue to fumble in the darkness, looking for a light switch on the wall, a doorknob, a hinge, more familiarity. And right when I think it will never come, it does. I find a corner, and it's comforting. I stand in it for a moment and get my bearings, allow the small victory to soothe my worry. I'm beginning to map the area in my mind now, learning where to go and, more importantly, where not to go. My vision is slowly coming back, and the darkness fades to light with every strike of the keys. I'm not actually moving about the room anymore. In fact I never was. I'm moving about the page, always have been. I’m trying to feel my way around it, trying to find something I can anchor to, something to make the task which lies ahead of me seem a little less intimidating. From time to time, the fear that this will never happen is overwhelming, but I push past it. I have to. If I can't, I might as well chop off my fingers and douse my keyboard in kerosene. Let it burn.

After some time, I find what I'm looking for, and it is the best kind of discovery: the door on the page. The door to the story. I don't know where it will lead, but I know it will lead somewhere—it always does. Even when it seems like it won't, by God it does. I walk through it, and I'm no longer sitting at the keys; I'm in the story and letting it show me what it is. My only job now is to be there as it happens, so I can record it as accurately as it deserves. I am merely a witness. This is the place I want to be. I love it here. I can only hope that when I leave again—even if it's only for the briefest of moments—I can remember how to get back.


  1. awesome, dude. don't stop writing!

    1. Appreciate the words of encouragement--and I would never stop.

  2. Well done, Christian. I think we can relate to the horror of not knowing if we have anything worth saying. An, frankly, it doesn't seem to get easier either.

    1. Thanks, Kathleen. I agree. And to be honest, I'm not sure I would like writing as much if it ever became easy. I tend to get bored quickly with things once they don't pose a challenge. It also makes those days when the words just seem to flow seem that much sweeter.