Some people eat words like food.
I’m one of those people. I always have been, and probably always will be. I devour sentences and paragraphs. I masticate over novella and sentiments. I dine on poetry and lyrics; I taste the world through chapters and pages. I digest tomes and novels, memoirs and publications. I gnaw greedily on lace lengths of words, then lick leftover letters from the tips of my fingers like creamy icing sugar.
I have been known to consume novels whole with huge bites in one sitting, gorging myself on something delicious. I end my literary meal slightly shell shocked at my own hunger, but satisfied. Full and pleasantly bloated, blinking at the light of the world I’ve been missing from for hours in real time… days or years or lifetimes in my head, in whatever book my consciousness is trapped in.
Sometimes people who read like that are blessed enough to write like that, too.
It’s rarely a chore, once you stop thinking to yourself about it and simply begin– type the first line. It’s no longer ‘thought’, as such, just fingers flying across keys, words spilling faster than you can catch them. A rush of dictation that trips over itself, neglects grammar and spelling in it’s urgency to be heard, to make itself linear, to spread itself across a page and lay itself open wide…
Sometimes, words spin themselves like sugar spider webs through my vision, forming chains of prose that spin and swirl round and round, almost like a song stuck to repeat over and over in your mind. Daisy chains of phrases that please my internal ears, pushed by paragraphs behind them that just can’t start speaking yet, lest that rush of words begin with no medium of screen or paper to contain it.
Some stories solidify in the same muddy mind depths from whence young children bring forth crayon monsters on paper. They surface almost fully formed, an experience encapsulated in a slimy, sticky dirt, and writing them out feels akin to birthing a child- it’s hard work that begins deceptively easily, the first pieces of the process sliding quickly into place. It’s at that midway point, with stories like these, half way through when so much of the tale has been labored out already, that you begin to wonder if you can do this, why you are doing this at all… giving birth to a story that wants to leave it’s holding space but offers so much resistance.
There’s a sense of push, of having just that little too much matter than there can conceivably be space for; of having some monstrous, impossible task just ahead, hurtling toward you, a synapse that may be difficult and painful but simply cannot be stopped at this point.
And then, before you even realize you’re reaching the end of it all, the girth of the act is done… the hardest part is over. The last few paragraphs fall in rapid, wilting succession; you are exhausted with a light headed relief. You sit back and stretch sore fingers and tired muscles, slightly amazed and gratified, ears ringing with that un-cemented, hazy belief that you have actually done it… you have, essentially, made something from thin air. You’ve put a story in a place where there was nothing before.
They say the true joy of writing should be in the editing.
Written words are best left to ferment for many hours, just as long as you can bear; at least overnight, so the darkness can seep in. Read them again through someone else’s eyes, tweak and erase and rebuild until words flow like water, until it feels like reading nothing at all but rather being told a story by a melodious voice, slipping into natural curiosity of what comes next. Regard boring, stale phrases as just such; replace them with words and phrases delicious, twined into sentences that could fill you up on scent alone.
Never say you ‘think’– always know. And if you do know it’s something you think, rather than know; then know that, and own it.
Be brave, be soft, be real, say you mean, mean what you say; search the vocabulary you have until you skim across a phrase that resonates, that embodies, that encapsulates.
Build castles with what you write, build cities in people’s minds. Plant desolate places in the souls of happy people so they might know empathy; watermark hope on the minds of those who are lonely, who love is not to touch.
And relish, delight in the simple joy that you can do that.
Writing is, just as reading is… a banquet; fragrance and taste and sensation intermixed.
Writing is like masturbation, like music, like penance. It’s reading- eating books like bags of lollies, hidden under a doona with a flashlight long after bedtime. It’s days that pass while you’re lost in another world bound by a cardboard spine. It’s books that are like old friends, dog eared and lent to friends and stolen from libraries, stained and crumpled and occasionally missing covers.
Writing is life, laid out bare. Black and white and twisted with silver and gold. Artistry, filling ugly holes with beauty.