Thinking It Through

I don’t know precisely when it happened, but sometime within the past several months (or maybe the past few years) I seem to have lost the ability to sit at my computer and produce pleasing, mellifluous language. I think I really did have that “gift,” if that’s what it was, and it seems to have left me. Now, when I sit at my computer to write, language more befitting a technical journalist than a creative writer appears on the screen. I just don’t know what happened. I miss my ability to string language into sentences that, to me at least,  please the ear, as if they were carefully woven into rich tapestries of sound and meaning and emotion. Today, my words fall into chaotic mounds as if their context has been stripped from them and they have been left to decay into meaningless syllables.

When I make a concerted attempt to write “flowery” prose, I fail miserably, so much so that I delete entire pages filled with dead words dressed up to look alive, like a corpse in a casket prepared for viewing. Maybe I’m trying too hard, or maybe I’ve just lost what once was an innate ability to write. Good writing involves more than stringing words together in a pleasing way. It relies more on emotion than technical skill. Perhaps that’s what is missing. Perhaps the emotions that fueled my writing have withered or have been used so much that they’re covered with calluses.

Writing has become work. It was never work before. When it was joy, it flowed. But it’s work now and it no longer flows. I have to extract it from my brain with heavy equipment, breaking through the layers of rock in search of tiny veins of ore that might, if I’m lucky, contain enough value to make the exploration worthwhile. But there’s never enough value to warrant the effort. Only when it flowed freely, without being coaxed or forced, was it valuable.

I don’t even know if I want to write. That could be the problem. Maybe I’m writing because I think that’s what I want to do when, instead, I’d rather be fishing or cooking or searching the back roads of country for the kid I used to be. That’s the key.

Mining the emotion without the tools, that’s it. That enables me to feel it and, when I feel it, it breaks my heart. That’s what will enable me to not only want to write but write the way I used to write. I feel it well up in me when something triggers an emotion too intense to ignore. When my eyes begin to brim with tears, that’s when I need to put words down. Not when I’m starched and dry and satisfied. I guess I need to peel back the protective layers I’ve intentionally wrapped around myself. I thought they were protecting me but, instead, I suppose they may have been smothering me.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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4 Responses to Thinking It Through

  1. Thank you for that. I’m glad you do, as well. I think it’s obvious that both of us use writing as a means of keeping us balanced. I hope, for both of us, it keeps working.

  2. Thank you, Robin. I hope I do. I hope I can keep writing the way I remember I used to.

  3. Hopester says:

    Your last paragraph is golden. I’m glad you continue to write.

  4. “When I make a concerted attempt to write “flowery” prose, I fail miserably, so much so that I delete entire pages filled with dead words dressed up to look alive, like a corpse in a casket prepared for viewing.” I’m pretty sure that this sentence is truly gifted writing. You’ve still got it, my friend!

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