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Sometimes I Write… So I Can Fly

February 14, 2016

I just read a novel about someone who decided to write a novel to fix all of the problems in her life. And I love how the book spoke to me, as though saying “Yes. Yes, sometimes when life is spinning out of control you need to write. To put down your feelings and thoughts and experiences so you can stop them from bouncing around your head like hydrogen atoms and set them down in a row so you can contemplate them–how they have come to be, how they are connected, and how they are influencing you right now.” 

And also I hear the book saying “Don’t expect to be able to control your life through your words, however. You cannot will yourself healthy when you are sick, and the mere act of transmuting emotions into letters on a page won’t instantaneously fix your life either.”

“But isn’t writing a form of therapy in times of trouble?” You may ask. Well, yes. But writing doesn’t magically fix your problems. Writing is sometimes just about recognizing them, and contemplating them, and–if suitably acted upon–evidencing internal growth. 

But. And please take note of this: Writing is not about control. Writing is about seeing, recording, wondering “What if?” and “Then what?” If you seek to create a world in your image of what “should be,” I’m afraid your words will fall flat. Writing is about asking questions, and recording the answers. Writing is knowing that your answer may be incomplete, that you may still be looking for the answer, but at least you and your reader can seek it together and she will feel safe walking hand-in-hand with you because you haven’t pretended to know what you do not–you have merely said “here’s how I’m looking, care to join me?”

Writing is also not about counting. Not pages, or words, or revisions. First drafts are not the final; suffice it to say that you will write and rewrite and change and it is ok because the hardest part of writing (albeit sometimes only slightly harder than finally admitting you are done) is putting the damn pen down on the paper in the first place. 

It is easier to edit than to write. But here’s the rub: You cannot edit a blank page. You must take the wildly courageous, scary, and slightly insane first step and put some words together. 

And then remember that you probably won’t have it done in one draft, and that is ok. (Unless of course you write haiku, but even then I would guess that people have gone back to edit those as well. I know I have.)

And–this is important–what you write may not be the next new Great American Novel. It may be, to speak plainly, absolute shit; a mewling, pathetic, self-involved attempt to make the world understand you better that ends up showing what a narcissistic, immature idiot you really are. 

Hey, when did I say this was a pep talk?

Well, maybe it was implied. Ok, scrape your ego off the floor and think about this–when you are writing, you are doing what thousands of people say they will do but never actually attempt. When you are writing, you are creating. When you are writing, you are tapping into immortality. 

And, my dear friends, remember this–if, when you are writing, you feel your heart thudding ever-louder in your chest, as though your very soul is attempting to break free from its mortal cage and fly like a bird into eternity…then you are doing what you have been created to do all along. And there is nothing that any editor, publisher, family member, or troll on the Internet can say to destroy this truth. You may not make millions, but if just one person reads your book and, when they get to the end, closes their eyes with a smile and a small sigh (even if that person is you)… then you, my friend, are a writer. 

So pick up that pen, my friend, because it’s time to fly. 

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