In Search of Words about Writing
What is it like to write?
When I first discovered Dylan Thomas in my early teens, it unbolted a mayhem of yearning inside me. I knew only that I wanted to do that with language, to cause a rousing inside another, simply by the laying down of words in a particular order so that they pierce and prod, stir and surprise.
But it was only when I started writing in my twenties that I learned my own way into the writing process. Until then, I had never heard of how in writing you might come across your own strangeness and feel yourself grow large and curious as words trickle from somewhere (inside? outside?) like soft rainfall, and make their way onto a page. And then how you might stand back on the crest of a day’s work and appraise the shape of the world you have formed from nothing – a blank page.
When I’m in the density of writing a book, Zed notices. He says I disappear. A part of me slips away. My personality changes. I talk less. I recoil from noise. I cannot watch TV. I prefer my own company. But in this fading out, I am filling up. I’m surging, closing in on something that feels just within and just beyond my grasp. I close my eyes and let myself sink. I tumble like Alice down the rabbit hole, and any disruption, no matter how small breaks the reverie, like an alarm clock on a deep and powerful dream. It’s a radical act of surrender to an energy carrying me, a tiny surfer on a massive wave, sourced beyond the confines of my body and my ego.
I love to write when I’m half asleep, sometimes with eyes barely shut, and see what seeps out.
Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?
Writing is searching for a vein, the best vein, piercing the surface and letting the blood flow.
It’s an affair without the guilt. Knowing something others don’t – being in on a secret entirely your own.
It excites me in a way that nothing else does, a blind date with yourself, replete with eager anticipation – will this work out or won’t it? Will you leave with a flutter in your heart or disappointment? You never know until it’s done.
In my day-to-day life, I’m foolish and mundane; but in writing, I can be wise and profound, to the point of utter unfamiliarity, of self-startling, the way we might gawk at ourselves in the mirror, after a professional makeup artist and hairdresser have done their jobs. Who is that person? Consequently, I like much better the person I am when I write. I’m more interesting, fascinating, deep and thoughtful. When our writing is carefully edited and rewritten, not the blurt of a first draft, every single weighed up word is a musical note in a perfect melody. Writing is architectural, structured, the ‘mathematics’ in Jorge Luis Borges’ equation ‘art is fire plus algebra.’ It is a true marriage of the wild, mysterious and untamable, and the careful construction of engineering and craft.
You sometimes hear of people living double lives – I know a woman whose husband pulled this off before he left her for his second family. I can see the appeal – especially for those of us who find the idea of choosing one set of circumstances annihilating of freedom and choice. When I write, I am living this double life, without the commute or the deception. I am a self, larger than my choices and more beguiling than my personality. I can opt for the predictable and unimaginative (heterosexuality, monogamy, parenting, mortgage) because when I write, I breathe fire. I can force language do to things I cannot force anyone or anything else to do. I can pair words that do not belong together: heart-sweep. A bonfire of the groin. A huddle of psychoses. I don’t loathe myself for sitting in my sweatpants all day as long as I dance in stilettos and castanets on the page.
I do not know if I want to be myself if I cannot write. It is, like all terrible loves, filled with both longing and terror of how I would cope if I lost it.