Writing is about saying no.
No to ideas. No to sentences. No to scenes and characters and themes that look good on the surface but just don’t fit into the heart of your story, no matter how hard you try to jam them through.
It means saying to yourself: no, you can’t leave with that story tonight because you have another one waiting for you at home. Put the drink down and stop flirting. Commit.
I have commitment issues – which, for a writer, means an innate inability to sit down and write a story until it’s finished. Lurking in the depths of my Microsoft Word files are many beginnings, a handful of middles, and very few endings.
Writing means never abandoning your story. Your story is your child. You feed your child and love your child and hold your child’s hand until it has grown enough to exist on its own in the big, scary world.
Writing is about choosing which ideas to turn away at the door because your mind can’t accommodate all of them. And if you do let them all in — succumbing to good intentions and the conventions of polite hospitality — you will starve, and your stories will starve, but only after they’ve eaten everything in the house, leaving nothing but bones on your table.
Writing is about waiting for the right idea. This means turning away ideas that might have the right faces but the wrong hearts.
But it doesn’t mean just saying no to the wrong ideas. It means saying yes to the right ones: yes, yes, forever yes. It means committing. It means sitting down, shutting up, and getting it done.
I am slowly but surely learning this. Ideas fly around my head like a swarm of doves, but I have only two hands to hold one.
I’ve been writing a novel, which mostly (for me) means saying no to poetry. And ultimately, it means that you will be seeing less of me on this blog. I will still write poetry, I’m sure, but not as much, and not nearly as often. Most of my nights for the next few months will be committed to writing — and finishing — this story.
I think I have found my right idea. It has a good face and a good heart, and though it doesn’t always say what I want it to say, it surprises me.
And for that, I think I love it.
Thank you, mywordpool audience, for reading and supporting me and my work. It’s an honor and a privilege to be on your computer screens — and one day, I hope to be on your bookshelves.
For now, I will keep Neil Gaiman’s words close to my roaming, wandering writer’s heart, and I encourage you to do the same:
“This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”