How I Write

It starts with the search for an idea. Perhaps a question: What if…? I walk around for days or weeks, staring off into space, plucking and discarding topics and thoughts and ideas. Something appeals to me. No, it will never work. Maybe I find a general area of interest and a subset that I let incubate.

Then I reach a point when I get frustrated with myself, with my indecisiveness. I sit myself down at my desk before the empty screen. Just start writing, for God’s sake.

First, I must have a long talk with myself. So what if it’s terrible? At least you wrote something. I think of the award-winning author’s novel I just read. The one that filled me with both longing and despair. The luminous prose, the sublime descriptions, the characters that walked off the page and into my mind and heart. The writing that made me keep turning pages, forgetting to thaw something for dinner, forgetting the unwashed lunch dishes at the sink. Oh, I love this author’s writing. Oh, if I could write like this. Oh, I never will. Close the book. Set it aside. Sit down at your laptop. Turn it on. Open a new text document.

Next, take a few deep breaths. Center down. Close your eyes and calm yourself. Call on the Universe, the Spirit, to whatever other names you know. Ask the Muse to come. Rest in the silence as long as it takes. Open your eyes. Write a sentence.

Usually at this moment, the inner editor appears. He doesn’t like the sentence. He finds it lacking, boring, uninspiring. He calls it crap. My fingers fall away from the keyboard. Hey, I didn’t ask for him. Go away. You’ll get your turn later after I’ve actually written something that is complete and ready to be revised. I tell myself it doesn’t have to be good now. It’s not even born. I just have to begin. I write another sentence.

A picture comes up on the screen of my mind. There’s a woman. I don’t know who she is or what she wants but here she is. It’s a fuzzy dream. She evolves through my fingers onto the page. I write another sentence and another. I watch what she does as my fingers move across the keyboard. Where is she? She’s in a room. I see the bed, the tangled covers, her body tangled in them. Words of description flow through my fingers. I look around to find what else is there. What will happen now? I watch and wait, wondering.

And so it begins. This magical process that fills me with wonder, that absorbs me in this story, that reveals itself as I write. It’s mysterious. I thought I was making something up. But instead it feels like I’m a channel for something that flows through me from the beyond. I couldn’t stop now even if I wanted to.

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