Making a living from writing is simple, they say. That may be true. But writing well is not simple or easy at all.
While isolating at home, I’ve been hard on myself for not writing more. A shit-ton of articles remind us not to beat ourselves up for being less productive right now, but I can’t shake the feeling that now is the time. Each day squandered is a day lost in making this writing thing something real for myself.
I’ve struggled with saying anything recently. My problem isn’t that I don’t know what to write about; I’m not out of ideas. I’m out of words.
All the stuff that doesn’t fit neatly into a listicle or give readers a solid “takeaway” are all the things that feel the most necessary to write and unequivocally the most difficult.
How do you use words to describe the experience of living? I mean really capture it, in all its nuances and gray areas. How do you reach down into your soul and pull up language that captures fleeting moments of ephemeral joy, grief, envy, and loneliness? How do you express the things that beg to be expressed: things that don’t speak for themselves?
No matter how beautifully strung-together the words are, it’s still only desperately close to explaining the unexplainable — so close I can almost taste it — but never quite there.
The whisper of space left between what you feel and what you can almost but not quite express is maddening. It makes me want to slam my laptop shut and procrastinate, procrastinate, procrastinate.
But it’s meant to be like this. Writing isn’t solely about the words you choose for your sentence; that would be easy. But that wouldn’t be writing, in the artistic sense of the word, would it? It’s about so much more than stringing some words together.
It’s also about the message between the words; the message that wasn’t at the forefront of our minds when we sat down to write but shines through at the end.
It’s about finding solace in the process for ourselves, in digging up what we can and spilling it out with so many wrong words and a few right.
It’s about someone out there reading it in a way that means something to them in ways we couldn’t have anticipated.
It’s meant to make us dig deep and slam whatever we pulled up into the keyboard and read it back, thinking: I had this to say?
It’s meant to push us, reward us, scare us, stretch us.
The beauty in writing (in any art, really) is found in that whisper of space between what you tried to express and what you actually created. That little bit of desperation in the effort, the reach, the gap is the thing that comes through art and gives it life.