Writing is not a simple process. It takes a different part of consciousness, pushed to a realm of thoughts and fear not encountered in a regular day, and asks the words to emerge in ways that make sense. Often they don’t make sense, especially not at first, and they are kneaded over and over again. Still not right, they are deleted, scratched through, broken and put back together. Some never make it to anyone else’s eyes, stuck in a draft that hides in a folder, a notebook, or a file that grows dusty.
But some escape, merge into a phrase worth sharing. Congratulations to those — job well done. What words come next? And the process is repeated over and over. The better ones might be seen by a few close friends, hesitantly handed over for review and critique. But it doesn’t end there, and the hardest decision is still to come.
Should this be shared with the world?
Overwhelmingly the answer is no, a reluctance that is deep and strong. Who else could possibly understand what these words mean, the agony and effort it took to create them, and worse than that, what if they’re seen as weak? As an example of poor writing, an idea not fully developed, an embarrassment, a sign of an amateur?
But deeper inside is the belief that started it all. The belief that there is something good to share, an idea worth exploring, a desire to reach out to strangers with words that can connect. It’s a small light in a dark room, barely giving off a glow, not even strong enough to cast shadows on the fears that fill the room. Some days it gets brighter by a fraction, and those are the good days. But mostly it stays small, barely visible, no warmth to give.
Those are the days when writing does not happen. The ideas remain, twisting and spinning in the background, trying to merge together into something that will be noticed. But they just bounce off each other, not able to stick, and there are no new worlds on the page. Thankfully they don’t disappear, but they wait. They wait for a time when they can connect and reform and make their way to the tiny light in the center of the room.
These patterns of movement are unique to each writer. For those we may call lucky, the speed at which the light and darkness interchange is so quick, it’s barely noticeable. The pause between ideas is short, a nuisance, quickly overcome by new creations. But the energy required to lull the ideas out of the room and onto the page is extraordinary, and even the lucky must use a great deal of strength to make them real.
For the rest, the unlucky, it is even harder. There are no set patterns, no rules, no schedule. The ideas can take shape at the most inopportune times, in the shower, in the car, at a concert, in a meeting. There is no way to record them the way they need to be recorded, so we beg them to stay just a moment more, linger until we can help them come alive. We try to go over them, memorize them, learn each twist and turn by heart before it’s too late. And often we fail. They dissolve without warning, and that small light in the room stays the same or grows dimmer.
It’s not for the faint-of-heart, this writing we do. It takes time and patience and energy and stubbornness and sometimes a leap in the dark.
But we do it. We keep trying to mold and shape and write the words we see in our heads, feel in our hearts. That tiny light keeps us coming back with its promise of possibilities. We know it can grow, it can brighten the whole room and beyond, and we want to see that happen.
And so that, my dear children and family and friends, is why I continue to write, even if you haven’t seen a new word from me in a decade. The light is still glowing, though it is smaller that it has ever been. I can go days without thinking about it now, and that is a relief and a sadness I cannot explain. It is a part of me that I hope never goes away, a part of me that reminds me that one day, some day, it will grow and burn bright.