When the Words do not Come

Some mornings the words flow like water from a hidden spring, without stop or visible source, and I drink and drink until I have had my fill.

Some mornings the spring is no more than a trickle, so small I can hardly press my hands low enough to catch the water.

Some mornings I wander about searching for the spring, and trying to remember just how the taste of water feels.

The point is this: writing is a strange marriage between the known and unknown, conscious and unconscious.  Plot and character arc and pace can all be explained.  But how can inspiration be explained?  What is the map to that elixir that is the reward for my toil?

For some it is caffeine.  For others it is alcohol or drugs.  Writers are willing to risk harming their bodies to achieve the higher state of mind that comes with writing, because that experience itself is a drug.  There is nothing like the wonder of a story unfolding in the eye of the mind.  The vision is clear and beautiful, full of nuanced meanings, and in the conception of the writer it has no flaws–not until it has bled onto the page.

I don’t mean to set forth the way writing is or ought to be done, here or anywhere else.  As Hemingway said, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”  But I would like to think this struggle is not mine alone.  I would like to think every other storyteller out there has experienced the highs and lows that I have–the days when a story burns inside you like an ember, so hot it cannot be ignored, and the days when that story feels like a heap of ash.

So here I sit with a cup of coffee beside me, hoping that as I put these simple words together, lightning will strike.  Ebb and flow, rise and fall, clarity and confusion and the uncertainty of the journey.  Every piece a part of the whole.  Every challenge a measure of endurance.

And as I search for that hidden spring again, I recall the words of Ray Bradbury over and over like a mantra: “You fail only if you stop writing.”

I hope you are right.

I am betting my sanity on it.


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