It’s always hard to get back to the page, especially when our writing routine has been periodically interrupted over a long stretch of time. If writing is a way of reconnecting with oneself, not having anything to say feels like a terrible kind of muteness. Like a traveler eager to book a hotel room, we’re desperately pushing the desk bell but no one is coming to the lobby. We want a room of our own, a sacred refuge where we can ponder and reflect on ourselves: writing is that room. When we can no longer write, when we can think of nothing to say and feel clueless as to what we’re actually feeling and thinking, we’re homeless nomads roaming through the desert, heat scorching our foreheads, sand blowing in our mouths. We feel directionless, adrift, lost. Worse, we possess an unsettling sense that there’s nowhere we belong.
I remember writing every morning and reveling in my inner world, my words, my ideas. Each new morning a revelation, some sort of insight into my life and character. Now I find it harder to establish an intimate relationship with myself. Like I said so many months ago, I rarely know what I’m thinking or feeling.
But perhaps that’s what writing is…a process of discovery.
As Flannery O’ Connor once said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
Often times, we chastise ourselves for not knowing what it is we have to say, as if we should have a perfectly solid, clear portrait of our artistic message from the moment we start typing on our computers. But writing hardly ever works like that. Ask any professional writer whether or not they know “what they have to say” before writing and most will answer in the negative:
“No, of course not!” they’d scoff, “When I begin a short story or novel, I’ll know how I’m going to begin and end it but the middle? No way. How I get from A to B is up in the air.”
I suppose the type-A part of me prefers graphic organizers and outlines to the uncertainty of simply writing free form. “Why write if I don’t have anything to share? if I have no wisdom to impart?” I interrogate myself.
Yes, you shouldn’t write unless you have something you passionately want to communicate; however, it is a widespread (and damaging) myth that that “something” will be completely clear from the moment you say go. Much of creation occurs in the actual act of writing-not in the pre-planning stage. Exteriorizing our thoughts in words has a way of clarifying our ideas for us.
So we must not be too discouraged or judgmental if we begin writing with “nothing” to say. What we have to say will often reveal itself if we’re persistent enough to keep putting pen to page.