When Writing = Death

Look, I’m not the first one to comment on this. Not even close.

You have an idea– a bright, beautiful, perfect idea– and then you start to write it down, and it dies on the page. It becomes imperfect. It gets messy.

Ann Patchett said her ideas are like beautiful butterflies that soar around in her mind, and then when she starts to write, she takes them and pins them to a board. Death.

Chuck Wendig blogged about it recently, saying, “Writing and storytelling is this… nasty task of taking the perfect idea that exists in your head and shellacking it all up by dragging it through some grease-slick fontanelle in order to make it real. You’re just shitting it all to hell, this idea. You have it in your mind: golden and unbreakable. And then in reality, ugh. You’ve created a herky-jerky simulacrum, a crude facsimile of your beautiful idea run through the copy machine again and again until what you started with is an incomprehensible spread of dong-doogle hieroglyphics.”

Sometimes it’s like I can see this perfect book; it’s shining like an angel at some perfect finish line. And when I sit down at my computer, I’m trying to run toward that finish line, but instead my running is sideways, disoriented, like the way my siblings and I used to spin until we were dizzy and then race each other. The whole time I could see the silo on the other side of the lawn– whoever reached it first would win– I could see it and was trying to run toward it, but my legs kept yanking me to the side like I was some drunken pre-teen.

It’s no wonder I sometimes avoid my manuscript.

Chuck’s blog post went on to say, essentially, write anyway: “Those who try to master perfection will always fall to those who iterate, and reiterate, and create, and recreate. Art is better than philosophy. Creation, however clumsy, is always better than sitting on your hands and fearing what damage they can do.”

Writing takes courage. Writing means walking in the shadow of death while still trusting in life. It means daring to wade into the mess in order to find that spark of life, of beauty, instead of being content to just daydream of perfection.

My prayer these days is “Help, God. In every way, help.”

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2 thoughts on “When Writing = Death

  1. dizzy, dizzy spell! remember recently when i tried to convince you to play it again, and you refused? that makes me want to cry. 😦

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