“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
One of the biggest nuances of the human condition, along with our knowledge of our impending death and our lack of a proper tail (seriously we missed out on this!), is our desire to express ourselves, share our feelings, sensations, experiences, and of course, our yearning for being understood.
Literature is the expression of a feeling of deprivation, a recourse against a sense of something missing. But the contrary is also true: language is what makes us human. It is a recourse against the meaningless noise and silence of nature and history.
The way we think and feel is boundlessly complex, enough so that we had to develop language to fulfil that desire to share ourselves with others, but language is so insufficient. Ugh! Even as I write this I struggle to say exactly how it feels. You see, there is something vastly inconvenient about being stuck inside our own heads, and having to use language as our only way of communicating, for it is so… how do I say this? Inefficient. Why can’t we just connect to each other with USB cables and sync our feelings?
“Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.”
How do I tell you, for instance, how I feel walking on a brown dirt row, that is surrounded by tall maple trees the color of sunset, enclosing the path like sentinels standing guard over that of a king, with the red dusk sun blinding my eyes, while the freezing wind sings and plays in between the crimson leaves? I can say that it feels “amazing” or that I was in a moment of “pure bliss” but that is not exactly how I felt, now is it? It was more like “a feeling of limitless contentment that I , knowing three languages, cannot find the proper word that describes it,” that’s better, you get the idea that it was a very good feeling, but does it demonstrate how I felt? Almost, but not quite.
The most important things are the hardest to say…words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out.
Now I don’t just want you to envision the red sunset as you deem fit, I want to hold your hand and guide you through my own experience, I want to lift you out of your head and insert you into mine so that you can see the scene like I saw it, see the world through my eyes (but seriously, avoid clichés like the plague). But then how do I separate my voice from that of 7 billion people? It is not enough to say the sunset was red, I want you to see a whole new sunset, make sure you understand that it is I who is talking and that you recognize me and my voice among the thousands of voices out there. So I don’t just write, the setting sun was reflected on the water, no, I wreck brain finding a more elaborate and inventive way of saying that.
“The sky broke like an egg into full sunset and the water caught fire.”
Pamela Hansford Johnson
But writting is so much more than turning the most common sentences and repeating them back to the reader in a way that has never before been attempted. It is spinning solid gold out of a metaphorical straw with an intangible spinning wheel.
All good wriring is swimming under water and holding your breath.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
But then why do we attempt it day after day? Google “author quotes on writing” and what you’ll find is a plethora of complaints from many kinds of authors saying the same thing, writing is very hard work. Then why do we attempt it? Why do we struggle day after day to say what has never been spoken, to describe what has never been seen, to create a story out of nothing at all? Well, according to many authors, it is simply because we have to. Because humans evolved with that frantic need to communicate, and speak, and create, we want to be heard, understood, and best of all remembered. Put simply, if we didn’t we would drive ourselves mad, trapped alone in our heads with only our lonely little thoughts for company.
“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”