Bookmark #423

When you sit down to write, the words are already written. Writing is a lot like sculpting. It is also like a child finding a roll of tangled strings, and out of nothing but sheer curiosity, starting to untangle them while, as children often do, transforming it into a game. It is a lot like that, yes. It is like sitting for hours, trying to pull at strings of different colours, thicknesses and materials from one another, separating them until every string is laid neatly before your eyes. Untangled strings have essentially no difference from tangled ones. It’s the same string; you can still feel it to be the same material, the same thickness; you can see it to be the same colour. The difference is in how they are arranged. That is the essence of the written word. You don’t change anything about your thoughts. The clarity people often parade about is nothing but the rearrangement of things; nothing new is created when you write; the words are there, as they always have been.

People tell me they feel lighter after writing, as if some feeling, some emotion they were caught with, has been lifted off of their shoulders. I ask them to wait for it to return. It takes hours to untangle strings; it takes but a shove to tangle them back again. Writing is not some panacea. It is a tool, like a hammer and a chisel. There is nothing special about sitting to put words down on a page. But then, there is nothing special about taking a hammer and a chisel and working for hours on a rock because you see an angel carved within it. It is not about the tool but the hands that hold it. It is not about working hard with the chiselling. It is about seeing the angel within. If you don’t see it, you can’t carve it. If you don’t see the words on a blank page, you can’t write them. The very act of writing, the very act of leaving some marks on the blank page, is what a sculptor does to rock. They break the blankness; they interrupt the void because they see something under it.

You can’t write a single word if you don’t see it already. You must see what the page hides underneath. And if you do it long enough, you may see an angel someday. If you know where to strike, it will be revealed.