Write what you know. Just start. Don't delay yourself with typos, editing, rewriting. Just write. Supposedly good reading is born from hard writing. Writing is meant to hurt. Word after painful word; at times that is the process that creates truly great writing. After all, what is the value if there is no cost?

Write what you know. Simple sounding instructions. But what do I know? And which parts of it matter? Writing to me often feels as though I am laying my mind out for dissection.  The blank page is my operating room; paragraphs are the incisions; the black characters which appear, dripping one by one down my arms and falling from the tips of my fingers onto the page, they are the blood.

Is that too gruesome? Too painful a process? Perhaps it is a bit macabre. Surely not all writing is so painful. Surely there are times when the words simply flow, or perhaps over time, the process grows easier. Not everything has to hurt.

But still, there is something about creativity; it's vulnerable and vulnerability hurts. I always grow cold when I begin to write, as though my skin is stripped raw.  Plato wished to separate the mind from the body, Whitman insisted they were inseparably entwined. There is a visceral nature in some writing that cannot be denied; when a contemplation of emotions seems to actually twist something in your heart, or a reflection of sensations seems to be tangibly traced down your spine. Complicated, human writing that has not been reduced to intellectualism is as physical and emotional as it is mental.

The writers who resonate the most deeply are those who admit that people have minds, bodies, and souls. But such admissions are hard and they are rare; because admitting all three makes us terribly complicated. It is tempting to try to simplify and endeavor to to make sense with only two of them, but in doing so we find ourselves stuck in molds that have left parts sticking out. We were not intended to operate well while in denial of one third of our composition.

To write well, one must accept that there are thoughts and feelings, both emotional and physical, and something elusively complicated that defies disregard called the soul. And all of these things bleed into each other like a Ven diagram. And like the wind, they cannot be caught and pinned down for easy inspection; they must be sensed, reflected upon, and then finally described with far too many words. Words that plumb the depths of our language and sometimes necessitate raiding the others; complicated words that need a Latin dictionary to fully comprehend the nuances of.

So you must press where it hurts. Little value will come from the repeated dusting of the surface, you must go deeper. Delve far into your heart, mind, soul, and note what flinches when you touch it. The word 'exquisite' expresses something that is beautiful and delicate, but the origin of the term comes from the Latin of ex (out) and quaerere (search/seek); implying the notion that much of what makes a thing exquisite is in the journey and labour of finding and obtaining it.

To write something that is more than simply good it is necessary to be brave. Intellectually I can tolerate rejection... but to write something that is exquisite it is necessary for me to reach far deeper. And I am not sure if I am ready to let the world see my heart or my soul.

{sources and references in this post include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry Miller, Karl Lagerfeld, Jonah Lehrer, Nancy Pearcey, Marilynne Robinson, and Jessica Kerwin Jenkins}

1 comment:

Emily Hannah said...

Oh, so true! Writing can be, is almost supposed to be, a painful process, but it's hard to remember that and press on. In the end, it's always worth it. Thank you!