Writing is a myth. No one’s writing. No one knows how. No one can get it right, ever. Writing is folklore, witchcraft, uncensored heart bleedings and all that. Nonsense. Trivia.
Writing comes from the blunt parts of things, the edges, the rough-cut, hand-sawn wood ends that get thrown into the reject pile. The scrap yard, that’s the place for writing. It’s a heap of fodder, a heap of refuse, a pile of twisted burning wreckage of humanity refusing to nub itself down into tidy piles of sawdust. Writing is a voice crying in the city, in the hillside, in the airplane, in the train, on the mountain, in the valley, in the White House, on the great walls, all of them, it is a great voice crying, crying, crying, crying.
Writing is collective, a voice of all ages, of all times. It passes down from an ancient hand to a future one. Writing never pauses for the present. It never waits, contented, for the future. It never lingers, silent, in the past. It is restless. It is NOW. It is bold. It is the river rushing. It carries the trees down the mountainside. This is me! I am here! It screams. It is not your grandmother. It is your grandmother before you knew her, when she was young and untethered and crazy with lust and possibility.
Writing hurts you. It hurts you to read like it hurts you to hear true things said. True things hurt you because they cut down the lies you like to hide behind. You don’t want to hear this nonsense. (Writing is nonsense, remember?) You don’t want this streaming voice to push down your matchstick house. Oh dear, oh dear, where will you live now? What will you do? Where will you go? You’re terrified. It’s okay. We all are. Just admit it. You can quit playing hide and seek when you realize none of us are seeking. All of us are hiding. Now we all know, so it’s safe. Let’s quit hiding from each other and start seeking something better together. Writing reminds us that we could do that, if we want. Writing says, Quit being a coward. Writing says, Lead the way. Writing says, Just try it.
Writing is a little heaven. Writing is a little hell. Writing is a little bit of earth, distilled, into a drop, so you can hold it and really look at it. Just for a moment, then you have to drop it. It burns. It boils. It dissipates into steam and goodbye, it’s gone. You can’t exist on writing that’s come and gone in your brain before. It comes. It goes. You need more. One word or sentence or story or paragraph wakes you up because you read it at the right time. That’s perfect. But it won’t be the one that wakes you up next time. You’ll need a new awakening and that can’t come from the same line in the same story. You can revisit that place. But if you want to move forward, find new things to read. Find more writing. Or write it yourself.
Because everyone can write. Writing is common. Writing is common ground. Writing is a shared skill. Writing is just talking to more than one person at a time. Oh wait. We call that “Speaking.” Or “giving speeches.” That’s why so many authors go on to spend most of their time being professional speakers. That’s why so many potential writers float toward that speaking genre instead of writing. Speaking is good, too, and giving speeches. Very motivational, stirring, encouraging. All of the beautiful things writing is, in many ways. But not quite writing. Why not? Because writing is you talking to many people but on their terms. They get to hear what you have to say when they want, as they want, alone. No crowd energy. No peer pressure. No social cues. Writing is cutting out the body language and tone of voice and jokesy tells and hey-buddy-we’re-all-together-in-this cues. Writing means you have to trust what you say has enough weight on its own to matter to someone who reads it. It might not. There’s a good chance it might not. If you want to write, that’s a chance you have to take. It’s not a big deal. It feels like one because we talk about writing as if it is Some Big Thing when it is, in fact, just Another Thing. It is important, sure, but so is talking and eating and copulating and we do those every day as if they are No Big Thing so surely we could wrap our minds around writing and do it as just Another Thing too.
Writing is just another thing. No capital letters needed. Writing is the socially awkward cousin you have to invite to your wedding. Writing is that one friend from high school who won’t forget you. Writing is the cough that keeps waking you up in the middle of the night. Writing is the weird sound your car makes on cold mornings. Writing is fucking annoying. It won’t leave you alone. You tell it to and it won’t, and that’s the whole problem with writing. It’s just another thing, not a big thing, but when you treat it like just another thing and say, Hey Writing, fuck off, you’re not a Big Thing, well. It won’t. It lurks and lingers and sneers and grimaces and flops on top of whatever you’re doing and sneezes in your face and Oh, that might be my cat, actually, but that is also precisely how writing is. That might explain why so many writers like cats.
Writing is like learning how to play the violin. When you are 5 years old and you start learning Twinkle Twinkle Little Star you will sound like hell. But you will be so proud of yourself, and play for all the people and they will endure the screeching banshee-rattle music and clap politely (and with great relief) and you will feel as if you have done a thing well. You’ve been awful but you don’t know. This is how it is with writing a Single Thing. You will labor over it and with all that labor you will think it must be pretty good. It almost certainly isn’t. Some people will clap politely for you but most will find a way to be sick when you invite them to your second violin concert. But then you practice and practice and over the course of years and many painful concerts you learn what music is. And one day you are 27 years old and playing a beautiful song for a great many people and they are clapping genuinely and you think, Wow, I made so many mistakes, that could have been much better, I can’t believe they like it, I need to go practice more.
Writing is power. Writing is energy. Writing is connection. Writing is real people saying real things to each other. Writing is a community that can cross every barrier someone tries to put in place. That’s why writing scares people, big people and little people. It scares big people because of what it could damage. Writing can topple systems. Writing can end wars. Writing can open eyes. Writing can erase lies. Writing scares little people, like you and me, because it means responsibility. It means power, and we haven’t had that. What would we do with it. How would we use it. What would happen. Maybe the big people are right. Maybe we shouldn’t have this. Maybe we should just…
Be silent? Writing can’t be silent. It is never silent. It is always quiet. It is the rumble beneath the avalanche. It is the glowing ember beneath the wood. It is the sonic boom thousands of feet under the surface. You say a word and it drops, boom, and the energy goes out, quick and quiet, and you can’t stop it now. And people look around and think, Where did that come from. How did that happen. Didn’t see that coming.
Well. That’s just because they weren’t reading.