Starting to Write

Stop whatever else you are doing. Close your email application and Facebook, turn off the background music, silence your cell phone. Put it all away. Do it now. I'll wait.

Sit in silence, without distraction, and read this post. Silence the part of you that makes false claims about the utility of background music or the necessity of leaving your cell phone turned on. Silence the part of you that wants to argue with me, right now, about my unreasonableness, the part of you that makes claims for this or that distraction. Still the monkey mind that never shuts up, never stops talking, never ceases inventing new ways to jostle, cajole, argue. Stop arguing and listen: the voice of a writer can only be found within silence.

Silence.

Start with that. Stay within it. Allow it to grow around you, to blossom, to disclose the images and words that inhabit the landscape of your inner life. Don't control it, or direct the flow of that nascent energy. Sit, and read, and watch yourself.

Forget that you are trying to write. This fact is irrelevant to the creative process. It is a curiosity. A writer finds and follows the creative voice. The means by which this happens, the structure in which it unfolds, the particulars of the path: these are secondary and inconsequential. A writer follows the path, whenever it appears and wherever it leads.

A writer does not invent or create the writing. Instead, the act of authentic writing leads the writer. Accordingly, the task of the writer is to find — within — the stream, thread, and path of creative energy. Writing inhabits its own life, is its own animal, is a being struggling to be free of the cages we build around it. Don't take my word for it. Find the cage, find the animal.

Listen.

Stop arguing. Your arguments, like mine, only serve to strengthen the cage. The animal of the creative is not swayed by our smartness, our wit, our experiences. It does not care how many books we have read or how many fancy words we know. It is not interested in our expertise and the many ways in which we layer our insecurities one over the other.

The animal of the creative wanders the landscape of gods and heroes. The animal has seen things we no longer remember. The animal is what we once were but have chosen to cage as a means of protecting ourselves from the vastness of what we cannot grasp, the depths into which we no longer dare to gaze.

The creative animal is primordial, eternal, wise beyond our knowing. It has been waiting for us, all this time. Listen to what it has to say.

Write.

Allow the creative animal to write for you one good word, or sentence, or paragraph. Don't mess up the writing. It is difficult to say what this means, this messing up. Perhaps you are cool, or smart, or erudite. Forget all that crap. It is meaningless. Write honestly. Let the creative animal speak through you.

If, as you write, you start to worry about what people might think of your writing, you may as well not start. Give it up now, before you waste any more time. Or tell the part of you that wants to be a rabbit rather than a wolf to shut the hell up.

Write something. Don't worry about what genre it is. Genres have no meaning. Writing — all writing — is, at heart, an extended negotiation with the creative animal. That animal is partly you, yes; but is also not you, is wholly an emissary of that mystery we run from and slide toward.

And the animal is — for the most part — silent. Do not forget this. Words are not the creative, cannot be the creative, will never be the creative. They are echoes. Treat them as such. Find the source of those echoes.

Find the cage. Find the animal.

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