Bookmark #473

While people bombard each other with them, words come difficult to us writers. It’s impossible to explain it to those not privy to the odds and ends of this discipline, this madness, but those who know, do. You sit down to pursue a thought, and it goes fine for a few sentences until you run headfirst into a wall. A dead end! Then, you begin again. They call it crazy to do the same thing repeatedly, expecting something else to happen, but that is what a writer does every day.

You sit, and you begin to put words on a paper, and you reject, and you reject until it sticks, until the stream does not stop, and then, you know. You know this is it. You chase it. Most of what a writer does is about unclogging the tapestry of pipes and valves until it all starts to flow.

No true sentence was ever thought of; an honest sentence is as much a surprise to the writer as it is to the reader. Writing is not painting a basket of flowers; it is about picking the flowers instinctively, arranging them in multitudes of orders until it makes sense. They will want you to go to grammar school to learn the best way to write a metaphor and learn to avoid cliches. By all means, reject it. Sit down, string useless sentences, and out of juvenile spite, embrace cliches.

Now, you need to learn the basics, but anyone who thinks the basics to good writing lie in a book has never sat down to write or read. The greats did not have a primer to write the perfect sentence. They sat and worked every day. Writing was not about genius; it was about hard work. It was about learned wisdom acquired by making mistakes. You can have a science to it, but that would only make you as good as the writer who wrote a book about how to write. If you want your voice, a book written already is the last place to look.

Instruction manuals are for assembling furniture. If you want art, you must trust your gut and jump headfirst into a vat of gooey emotion, an emulsion of everything you have ever felt. Then, you must learn to swim as you struggle to breathe. Then, when they ask you how you do what you do, all you’ll do is smile, knowing all too well that this is the last question one needs to ask to get there.

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