November 24th, 2009


The Real Magic

I am not one who buys into the mystic mumbo-jumbo of writing. Creating worlds and characters and all the doings of their lives is hard work, not magical. It's skill, and yes, it's talent; but that euphoric flow of words I knew as a beginning writer have since been honed into the skills necessary to create something readable by those readers not my mother.

Or so I thought.

There is a place in the brain where the mystical-magical writing and hard-won skill meet. They are not, necessarily, mutually exclusive, but can work together, weave around one another, flick on and off as needed. I am able to get those magical moments, yet retain the knowledge necessary to keep them from being dramatic, wordy, unnecessary, or just plain sappy. It's every bit as euphoric--more so, actually, because I'm drawing from that piece of me that makes me need to write while using the skills I worked so hard to acquire.

As I near the end of this draft of this particular book, I'm conscious of all this. My brain knows when to stop for the day even if my fingers want to dance on the keyboard a little longer. Because I am listening to that part of my brain more attuned to hard-won skills, it rewards me by writing just the right words the next day instead of banging away at stuff that's going to end up cut.

All writers know the frustrations of trying to figure out what about our work isn't--working. It stops a lot of writers from moving beyond that unconscious joy of suckitude. Where will the joy be if it becomes hard work? For some, it's enough to have that raw talent for words and let it remain a joy, like a would-be pianist who can pick out pieces of twenty songs but can't play one of them through.

The hard work of writing is no different than learning to play piano. It takes practice. It takes patience. It takes determination and the will to continue on even when a story we put our hearts into gets rejected. Not everyone is going to be published, whether for giving up or just never getting the right story to the right person at the right time. We may spend our lives looking for outside validation of the talent we just know we have. But then there are those moments when the euphoric flow of words works alongside the knowledge we've worked so hard to attain to create something good, something beautiful, something we're so proud of it gives us chills, that is magic. That is writing.