A Writer’s Ah-Ha Moment

What I know about writing is elusive. It’s as fleeting as the sunrise over the Rockies but can linger as long as some Ah-Haenchanted evening sort of love, which is sometimes a lifetime or the length of a night. I didn’t know this when I took up this hobby come all-consuming passion. I was arrogant enough to believe I welded the power and could control the ebb and flow of my creativity on the blank page. As easy, as it is for me to flutter my eyelashes towards a lanky Gemini so would be filing three-hundred double-spaced pages. In retrospect, I envy this innocence because it was, and to some extent, is true. Back then, I didn’t understand enough about anything to take it as it came when it came. I had expectations.

In my passionate ignorance, I believed all that was required of me was to turn up each day and for an extended period of time—that can be as magical as an enchanted evening—and write. What I hadn’t anticipated were the nights I turned up at the appointed hour, flipped the switch, waited and waited, and sometimes waiting until blaze of the morning sunrise burned off the bitter loneliness of an unproductive night. It seemed silly almost laughable at first because I had lived several decades without writing so how could the random night without words affect me so profoundly. It wasn’t just that sleep that I lost, but my perspective. My mind convinced me there were answers in books, a cure for the lonely ache growing deep in my belly, which felt strangely similar to the absence of a lover who comes in and out of your life on his schedule.

Since red wine and songs of love were not the cure, I convinced myself writing was scientific. It can’t be magical. It’s not chance or random. Writing creatively is manageable. It’s a mechanical process thereby controllable by a force. All I had to do was learn. I started searching the aisles of  bookstores, the periodicals, the vast and overwhelming virtual world, for content on writing. Sometimes a writer writing about writing made sense, and I connected, but the meaning of the words fizzled when I closed the book or browser. I’d see the meaning clearly as I read the words but then the edges blurred, and everything evaporated as it does when you’re walking through a cloud of déjà vu after I finished reading. I sought other writers thinking they would know what I didn’t. I enrolled classes and workshops for the same reason. Knowledge is never wasted but sometimes, as in the case of writing, too much of something isn’t always a good thing.

A writing lesson I learned rather painfully is that I am sometimes at the wheels of control, while other times writing controls me. I somewhat arrogantly assumed with some knowledge I would master my productivity and know everything there was to know about writing. What I ended up learning without a book, or a class, or another writer, was that I knew more when I didn’t know anything. When I wrote without the details, without listening to others more seasoned on the craft, when I didn’t lose sleep over tense, or being something other than what I was meant to be, which as it turns out, is raw and authentic. Now I know more than I ever needed to know, which is not always helpful at 3 AM or when the story is stuck.

Writing is such a personal experience, unique to the consciousness on the other side of the page. How can the reader possibly understand what the writer went through to put words on the page? Or the years it took to find the courage to take a stand, to declare to the void, I am a writer! Hear me! Listen to me, read my words for they are from me, part of me, all of me. And if it sounds like I am saying I am celestial it’s because a writer sometimes feels that they are ethereal, part of a secret society they never thought of joining.

What I know about writing isn’t for me to share with you because I’m not like you or you like me. Each of us hears different notes in the keys on our respective keyboards.

 

What was your ah-ha moment on your writing journey?

by

I’m a writer and hoarder of one-size-fits-all panty hose. Until the hose fits over my bum, I write to provide an alternative view on writing and perfection.

22 thoughts on “A Writer’s Ah-Ha Moment

    • Hi, Brigid, that is an honest moment. If it’s not fun, then it’s not your passion. My favorite aspect of writing is getting the first draft finished, after that, the hard work starts, but it’s still fun. Thanks for dropping by.

  1. Yes, always striving for authentic voice. I sort of go with Kurt Vonnegut and, as he says, “give yourself permission to write shi**y first drafts.” For me, usually the voice is in there and can be cleaned up later, but hitting those notes so the reader hears the same chords as me…you’re right. That’s part of the craft.

  2. I’ll have to say, Brenda, that the only one who can truly advise you on writing is yourself. For my part, I had a story brewing for years. One summer, I literally felt God telling me: “It’s now, or never. Get busy!”
    I never looked back, just trusted, and the words flowed. Six novels later, I’m not writing anything but my blog at the moment, but I think the time is coming when I will hear those words again, and go back to story-telling. It’s in my blood.
    It’s in yours!
    Martha Orlando recently posted….New Every MorningMy Profile

  3. “My mind convinced me there were answers in books, a cure for the ache growing deep in my belly, which felt strangely similar to the absence of a lover who comes in and out of your life on his schedule.”

    Nice, that line.

  4. Oh, Brenda, your way with words is so lovely and true and clear …

    This post harkens me back to Stephen King’s book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” and his thoughts of a similar nature to yours. When I accidentally fell into this writing journey ten years ago, the book was recommended so many times that I simply had to read it. I did so … many, many times. Now, when I am honoured to speak to writing groups, I recommend it in turn.
    You say, so eloquently, “Each of us hears different notes in the keys on our respective keyboards.” He said (in many different ways and this is just one, referring to a group of peers), “We are writers and we never ask one another where we get our ideas; we know we don’t know.”
    What I learned from his book and feel I hear in your post : Sit down and write. Find your own voice. Don’t worry about anything else. Work with a good editor.

    • Thank you, Patricia. Exactly – I haven’t King’s words in a while. Now when I am working with other writers in writing groups (not that I have much) I know what to listen for, and what is just noise. And yes, always, always work with a good editor.

  5. Brenda, I love your posts…so vital and alive! I guess my ah-ha moment was the first time I suspended MY voice and opened the door to that other voice within. The one with all the stories. The one that knows what it’s doing. The one that rarely, if ever, falls quiet. I’ve learned, so long as I don’t interfere with that, I’m fine.

  6. Wonderful post! My ah-ha moment came early on. I was only a few chapters into my first novel when my characters came to life and started doing things and I just wrote down what happened. I understood then how writers could write hundreds of pages and dozens of books. It was magic and they were always in pursuit of that magic. Of course, I know now that the magic comes only occasionally and fleetingly. But when it does, it is as wonderful and addictive as ever.

    Re: writing books and classes, I really understood your line that as soon as you closed the book (or left the class), the great insight you learned seemed to vanish. Or if it doesn’t go away then, it seems to disappear as soon as I sit down to the computer. Writing for me isn’t logical or something I can reason out. It just happens and I have very little control over it. I’ve tried different techniques to try to become more productive or to plot and plan my books, but as soon as I try to apply them, nothing happens, the words/ideas/plots refuse to come. I’ve learned to just let go and accept that every book takes as long as it takes and comes together in its own time.

    Cheers!

    • Hi Mary, I’m glad to learn I am not alone in this feeling. I still enjoy the occasional workshop but my motivations are different these days but have found I learn more from the other writers. There is something to be said about the tribal knowledge writers pass along to one another I found intriguing and valuable.

  7. I’m with you on this one. My wip is giving me fits at this time. Somehow the plot isn’t congealing as it should. I spend longer times trying to work it out in my head, then I can put to paper. That’s why it takes about a year to complete.

    • Llona, hang in there with the WIP, I just came out the outside of a similar situation. It’s grueling but worth the effort. Trust our writerly voice.

    • Deborah – It took me several thousand words and probably as many hours before I learned the lesson of trust. At first, I was too willing to listen to others.

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