I create context. I also write blog posts:

Why Writing (Fiction) Is Hard… for me, at least.

Posted: April 26th, 2011 | Author: | No Comments »


This isn’t a topic I particularly enjoy talking about, but I sat down at my desk a few nights ago for a session and that scribble above was the result. Doubt I’m the only one who’s ever done that.

I don’t know how to describe it, really, so — like the rest of my life — I’m going to resort to metaphor.

Picture the human head — all eighty-eight and a half cubic inches of brain jelly rattling around in your skull — as a house. You walk up the porch steps, open the door, and walk into the foyer. There’s a living room and a kitchen and a family room and a dining room on the first floor. Upstairs, a couple of bedrooms, an office or something, and a door.

All of those rooms have things that make you who you are. My family room has Penguins posters and jerseys everywhere and a DVD collection and all of the CDs on my ipod and everything else. The kitchen is entirely filled with potatoes and boxes of brownie mix. Et cetera, et cetera. The house is filled with things that make up my personality.

But let’s go back upstairs to that door I didn’t explain. It goes to the attic. You open it and you’ve got a set of stairs:

This is where writing comes from. There’s no light switch, just a string hanging from the ceiling at the top, which, if you get to the there without tripping over something you’ve discarded lazily on the steps on a previous trip that didn’t pan out, you can pull. It takes a little while for the light to actually get bright. I don’t know, maybe it’s one of those new, environmentally safe ones. Probably not, though, it’s probably just old. There are a few windows to help, but it’s very rarely sunny enough to make a difference. So you walk up the steps, managing not to trip on anything. At the top of the stairs is a closet with a door. To the left, the attic opens up, clumps of boxes and old clothes and books and old trophies and things — it’s basically a dusty microcosm of everything that *used* to be downstairs.

Now, when you get to the attic, you can walk over to one of those windows, under which sits your writing desk. It’s big, wooden, beaten, with a typewriter if you’re nostalgic (or a new MacBook Pro if you’re lucky) sitting with a half-written page ready. That’s where it happens, so hopefully there’s a comfy chair that comes with the desk.

And while that’s kind of interesting, we’re drawn to that closet, that closed door. Maybe it’s got a padlock, maybe you gotta work to get in there. With all the things in the house stored out in the open, what’s kept shut away, out of the light?

So you open the door.

I’m not going to tell you what’s in there, and if you ever look in yours, you probably won’t tell anyone either. But every time you hear a heartbreaking song, read a dreadfully beautiful story, or stare at a dark painting, you’ll know somebody’s opened their closet and given you a glimpse.

Every time you go up to the attic to sit at that desk with the comfy chair and the new MacBook Pro, you have to walk past that closet.

And you better be ready for it. You better be ready to walk straight past without stopping. If you do want to stop, you’re gonna need a good glass of Scotch and to cancel your plans for a while.

Because that’s where all the stories you *have* to write come from.

You better make them worth it.

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