I’m reluctant to write this publicly because frankly I think there is such a large pile of writing about writing by writers that adding more to it is a bit of a disservice to the world. Yet here I go.
I’ve been sitting here warming up to go back to work on something that was hot and alive a few days ago and is now making faces at me because I don’t know how to get my head back into the space I was in when I wrote it. I’m sitting here feeling like a giant steaming idiot because, really? How hard can it be?
In fairness to me I’m not sure that writing is as easy as I seem to think it should be. Like, I have this image of writing as the one thing in life that I’m supposed to know how to do and that I can do with so much more ease than the average random person, as if this somehow means it isn’t hard to begin, hard to carry on, hard to finish. Maybe I hold this image because I annoy myself when I whinge; there are a lot of things that are harder; writing is a privilege. Etc. The truth is, I have always had to twist and contort and flog myself to get myself to write, always always.
Except when I haven’t.
Well, obviously. Because sometimes writing feels like the most natural thing in the world, like eating or sleeping. (Maybe if people judged you when you ate and slept, those things wouldn’t be so easy, either.) But if I only wrote like I sleep and eat—that is, when tired or hungry—then nothing would get finished. Writing would be a physical discharge and no more. To make more out of it I’ve got to be able to work, and the work of working is always a thing. See how articulate I can be? I stun myself.
Actually, I’m not interested in how clever I can be. The answer to that is always: not enough. And more importantly: who cares?
I always want to tap something rather than manufacture something. I’m perennially unconvinced by the things I have manufactured, but I fall in love with the inner streams I’ve been lucky enough to tap. That’s what I really want to do.
So if I want to tap something then I have to be willing to be quiet and pay attention. This is actually the hard part, and the more facile you are with words the harder it can be to just STFU. This simple relation is why our world contains an abundance of people talking their heads off with nothing to say.
Writing is listening. Listening means you aren’t the boss. You are the listener. That’s the work. It isn’t the whole work and nothing but the work. But it’s the work nevertheless.
I will now STFU and go back to it.