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why i love writing

June 11th, 2009

Plenty has been written about the tortures of writing, of writers’ block and tooth-pulling prose, of the torment of deadlines and nightmarish edits.

Yeah, I’m not going there. Today, I am going to be Pollyanna. Because yesterday I had one of those experiences that reminds me why I love writing.

I was working on the latest book (and yes, I’m being coy about it). I finished up a chapter and realized that the ending to one section sort of echoed an earlier section, so I went back and fiddled with the earlier chapter, cutting the last 3 lines and thus eliminating the similarity. In doing so, I ended that first section on a different note. 

Well—and I recognize I am being annoyingly vague here, but bear with me—as soon as I saw the new ending on the earlier section, it suddenly was like pow! Beam of light. Lightbulb. Lightning bolt (pick your favorite light-related metaphor or feel free to supply your own). Because you see, the newly changed section was followed by another passage that had also been troubling me. It was a sort of flasbacky section and I didn’t like what I’d had so I’d cut that but wasn’t sure what to put in its place. But the last line of the newly truncated first section—okay, I’ll tell you; it was something about secrets—just clicked it for me. Secrets. And with that, that troublesome flashback section, what before had been a wall, now was a picture window. And I could look through that picture window and see these scenes unfold in front of me and I wrote them down, as fast as my little fingers could carry me.

Now, I’m not saying that any of this is any good, that it will ultimately end up in this book, or even that this book I’m working on will ultimately end up a published book (I do have at least three novels on the trash heap of my hard drive so I have a history of writing whole books, and enjoying the process, only to junk them). But in the moment, it doesn’t matter. In the moment, it’s the magic that continuously astounds me. You think you’re stuck, and then you give it a while. You take a walk. Or you wake up early one morning and just lie in bed and think about things. Or you cut a few lines from a chapter. And then it’s like you find that secret lever and the hallway creeks open to reveal a secret passageway and you step in to discover that there are rooms and rooms and rooms down there. Places you never knew existed. It’s just so cool!

Okay, I’ll stop now. But this is what brings me back to the computer day after day.

  1. That’s a cool way to describe it, I get that feeling too-though I wish more often!!!

  2. Wow, what a cool way to describe it. I call those the “magical moments.” Where things come together and you feel as if the sky opens up and the angels are singing because it works and it works better than you could have even imagined.

    So glad you had a good writing day! Those magical moments don’t often happen to me during a first draft. More often during revisions, I think.

  3. Your post reminds me of a revelation I had recently. What makes a great writer is his or her passion for writing — not your initial level of skill. I work as a tutor at a college writing center, and day in and day out, students are expected to write by strict guidelines and regulations that actually dim the excitement of writing and deters them from growing.

    If we, as teachers and tutors and authors, can help spark that desire and passion in writing again, I have no doubts writers will succeed.

    I was really excited to find this post after hearing you speak at Wordstock, and to be further inspired to help young people fall in love with writing again.

    Take care,
    Jennifer

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