ALCHEMY OF WORDS
ALCHEMY OF WORDS
Some days it’s like that. You’d rather do just about anything other than write. Go pick out the new ladder you’ve needed for six months now, allow yourself to finally buy a shop vac, hand water your outdoor plants, rearrange your office furniture, go for a bike ride, clean the grill, cut your fingernails, check your Facebook page… again.
And still part of you knows you’d really rather be writing than anything else. If you could just start putting words on the page. If you could find the courage, patience, stillness, to write that first sentence, fragment, title, word.
And sometimes you may chicken out and just move straight to editing. Moving around words that are already there and trying to pretend that it’s the same thing. Though you know it isn’t.
Or the flow gets interrupted by some random thought, phone call, text message, memory, shiny thing, sudden erotic fantasy. And then it may take you the better part of an hour to make your way back to the flow. Or it may just be gone. Evaporated into the ether to go become condensation on some other writer’s water glass.
Some days it’s like that. You start with the best of intentions. Or even a bad cliché. But you are conscious of how precious the time is. And you resolve to beat back every other nagging critic telling you there are other responsibilities that need tending to. And still, you hover.
So you allow yourself another espresso. Fuel for the journey, you tell yourself, for probably the thousandth time. And though you know it’s a half-truth, you do it anyway. And you’re not sure if it will actually help, and you remain feeling guilty and whipping yourself the whole way there and back, but you do it all the same. And you’ll do it again, you know.
You know the best bet is to start first thing. Somewhere where there aren’t friends to talk to or other chores to nag at you. You know that the lie you tell yourself otherwise — that you’ll just clear some things off your desk first, and then you’ll write – has never been true before. But each day is new, and so you believe this time Lucy won’t snatch the football at the last minute. That you’ll be able to connect with the ball, to cleanly deliver a true kick through the goal posts.
And when, lying flat on your back in the grass with your head pounding, you find yourself after noon not having written any actual words, you’ll resolve again to get up and get straight to work. There’s still a full afternoon left, after all.
And then, on those days where you do sit right down, where the words are there and flowing and real, and all feels right with the universe, and all the wasted writing days, hours, minutes, that have come before suddenly vanish like desert rain, you must not think too much about what you are doing. About what you have done. Because if you do, you may suddenly start to feel self-satisfied about your productivity, which may lead to another thought about what else you may be able to accomplish on this glorious day, which may lead to delusions that you have already accomplished far more than you have, which may lead to thoughts of rewarding yourself with a beer over lunch, which will – if history is any guide – more than likely lead to the end of your word flow for the day.
Writing is more than just sitting down and bleeding at the typewriter, as Papa Hemingway famously said. It is also about a lot of pencil sharpening, lying in wait, trying to sneak up on the paper, the pens, the unsuspecting words. It’s about tricking yourself into sitting still. It’s about playing the role of the medium and surrendering to the trance.
Writing is more than just showing up, though showing up is never as easy as it sounds. Make no mistake, the channeling is hard work. True, there’s a rush. But like heroin, it takes its toll on the psyche and like sex, it’s hard to sustain for hours.
Some days it’s like this. But when it’s not, you can’t wait for another day like this.