Thursday, September 10, 2009

How do you come to it?

"You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair- the sense that you can never completely put on the page what is in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change to the world. Come to it in any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page." 
-Stephen King 
in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

I came to writing not knowing I could write. I came to writing to answer a question within me that didn't seem to have any other expression or way to be heard. I came to writing because I couldn't think what else to do with the burn inside, the thunder in my head or the silence that was strangling my life. I guess I came to be seen. But I also came to see. 
I came to writing unplanned, unprepared and unknowing. I threw my soul on the page and I let the words take root before my eyes. I let wild things grow in sentences and edited the jungle later. I let the first draft be just that, a first draft. The blank pages reflecting turmoil and joy and tragedy, all the colours and gray scale of life. I just wrote. 

Now that I have a healthy appreciation for the art... I have not changed my approach one bit. I don't think it is the only way to come to writing, or even the best way to come to writing. It is rather like the joy my baby derives from a bowl of spaghetti. And really, what is pasta if you cannot mash it through your hair and spread it around the table? And oh so much the better if the deliciousness creeps up the walls around and splatters on the floor below. That's me and writing. It ain't pretty, but I enjoy squeezing the pasta between my fingers. I like mashing words through my hair and so much the better if they end up spread from my office desk to the back of the house. 

But I  will say this- although I roll in the pleasure of the whole writing process, I am humbled that I get to add my words to this world...even in small ways. And I hope I never take that for granted.

What about you? How do you come to the act of writing? What works for you?


  1. Writing isn't torture for me, and I often wonder if I'm doing something wrong. Okay, sometimes the words don't flow as freely and it seems anything, even scrubbing the toilet, is more enticing than writing, but most days once I force myself to put my butt in the chair, the words come. It's the discipline part of it I have a problem with!

  2. Discipline is a slippery dish of soap isn't it? I struggle here too. Actually it isn't so much discipline as it is competing attention for my time. Kids hubbie etc. I would write all day everyday if I could. Well, I think I would...Thanks for the comment Steph.

    I'll be back later, must sleep (it is late over here in OZ). See you all then.

  3. Just so you know, blogger prints 5:15am for my comment when it is really Thursday night 10:16pm here. I felt the need to explain :) Blogger is American, right?

  4. Okay I was totally distracted from the whole post by the adorable baby pic at top! Too cute!

  5. This was funny because I blogged about On Writing this morning too. Great minds think alike :) I think getting "the butt in the chair" is the hardest part. And I so wish I could let the first draft be a first draft. I am a compulsive reviser, so by the time I finish the "first draft" the first chapters have been revised hundreds of times and the last chapters only a few times. I'm trying to be a better first draft writer.

  6. Eggsalad.



    It all depends on the story. Right now a am writing a light portion, and I dance around it. A few words here, a few words there. Like a feather. My first book was raw, it pounded out of me and needed heavy revisions. I made me move around the room and drop things and kick things and cry... and laugh. A mad woman typing. Errors everywhere. A tantrum? I suppose. It was SO much work cleaning up that mess, I try to be more tidy. Efficient. Anywho... that's how it rolls with me. Your baby is adorable. XO

  7. Hi, Tabitha:

    First, thanks for your encouraging comment on my blog this morning. I do believe that God is HUGE, MASSIVE, TOTALLY TOO BIG FOR MY UNDERSTANDING, and what an awesome testimony of this in your teaching experience. I know God can overcome anything, I guess I just think He's got a lot to teach me yet and I tend to fight Him on learning. During devotions today, I will lift my apologies to Him and continue to work to the best of my ability for Him, and trust that His Will will be done--though I'm pretty sure He's way busy with teaching me too!

  8. Oh, and I forget to add that I write similar to you, way too wordy in the first draft, but I'm finding as the years go by, I'm definitely writing more with an editor's hat on, trying to clean up my mess as I go. I don't know if that's good or not, but it seems to be working for now.

  9. Hi Tab,
    My memoir literally poured out of me. Had no trouble sitting in chair and writing--except when I was on the floor sobbing. But it took many many rewrites to get it to work as memoir, not journalling.
    Now I'm struggling. I get my butt in the chair, but the writing isn't flowing. I'm in a holding pattern until after vacation.If I come home and still not writing, I may have to shoot self (only kidding).

  10. I came to writing because...I did. I can't remember a time when I didn't write. I seem to have just always written.


    Straight From Hel

  11. Hmmm, I don't know how I came to it. I remember in first grade my mom gave me a diary. I saved it until third grade, and then started writing and never stopped. LOL
    I come to writing, I think, with anticipation.

  12. I'm going through a huge, infuriating upheaval in my thoughts and approach towards writing. I need some sort of direction. The Stephen King quote is amazing, and your words are amazing... now I want to stop being so obsessive over every single word and just go with the flow. Thanks. :)

  13. 'Thunder in my head' pretty much nails it. You are awesome.

  14. oooh. love the quote from king. i might have to use that in an article i'm writing on therapeutic writing. if we never approach the blank page lightly, then each page is a part of us. love that.

    The Character Therapist

  15. I do it just like you. Write whatever comes to mind and then edit the jungle later. It's the only way that works for me.

  16. I found that writing for me only started when I was in my pre-teen years and I couldn't handle my home life. So I wanted a way to escape; and I did that through my poetry.

    Then in HS I had an assignment that required me to write a short story was when I finally wrote my first piece with characters and a setting.

    Ever since then I have been coming up with story ideas. I'm always jotting something down somewhere. I have at least 5 short stories and two completed novel length manuscripts. Like many others procrastination kept me from finishing my second one. Once I set a two hour time goal every day with a word count requirement I completed the story in a little over two weeks.

  17. Hi, Tabitha!

    I came to writing many years ago just knowing that I could do it, that it was something I was supposed to do. Now that years have passed and I know more about writing in general, I feel like I know even less about it. But it's still what I'm supposed to do. I can't imagine being me--or processing life--without it.

  18. These days I sit and let the story pour out freely, just as it wants to come. It took me a long time to get here. I had to overcome that interfering 'perfectionist block' thing that caused me to fret over every sentence and word along the way.

  19. I would love to be a writer but unfortunately thats not my talent but I am a reader. So thank you for all you talented writers that do write so I can enjoy your work.
    Love the pic. He is sooo cute

  20. Beautiful the way you came to writing. I guess my way is the same but not as eloquently put. :O)

  21. Thank you all for your comments :) I am glad to see I am not the only organic gardener with pasta mashing tendencies!

    Strange fiction- yes, perfectionists block gets in the way.

    Kristen I can't imagine how I had life before writing either.

    JC- thanks for visiting. Funny how that regular writing time can push us forward hey.

    Lazy writer, hello fellow jungle writer :)

    jeannie and tricia- thank you.

    time is running away- no worries :)

  22. eileen, glad it was encouraging :) I hope you get everything you want out of that conference.

    jess, I like that, 'I come to writing with anticipation.' :)

  23. Natalie, :))

    Megan, yeah, he's cute... and naughty :)

    Suzanne, love the way you put that. The feather dancing... mmmm.. I can feel the air without even reading what you are writing :)

  24. Hilarious picture! He is too cute! I'd love to see the first birthday cake... I bet it was demolished!

    Writing is a similar experience for me. I sit down with the most tentative of ideas, the kind of thing you have to handle very delicately or it will disintegrate. Much like a moth with soft, powdery wings, it would be squished under even the lightest force. But holding it softly in my mind, I sit down at the keyboard and let it flow out onto the screen.

    The only trouble I have is that my drafts are so very messy. It takes me longer to go back and try to create some sense out of it than it did to write it. But the ideas flow so well that way, I can't dream of changing it!

  25. Stephen King can be so beautiful.
    I came to writing like I go to church, in search for meaning. And that's the best I can come up with.