The Anxiety Of Writing

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Arthur C. Clarke

Don’t you love technology? We are a lucky generation of writers. We have tools that make writing and editing an easy task to do. And then we have tools, and the internet, to interact with other writers, agents, publishers and most importantly our readers. I can’t say how glad I am to have joined the ranks of all those wonderful bloggers out there. To be honest I wasn’t sure if I would be able to commit to it early on. A year and a half later and over one hundred and fifty posts to my credit, all I can say is I love blabbing and I can happily quote Arthur C. Clarke’s “I knew it was a good idea all along!” as he writes:

“New ideas pass through three periods: 1) It can’t be done. 2) It probably can be done, but it’s not worth doing. 3) I knew it was a good idea all along!”

Every morning when I sit at my desk to write I have no clear notion of what my story is, of what my piece of writing is even about. But I remind myself that writing is very easy, just as Mark Twain said. All I have to do is tell the story- whatever the story is in my mind- as cleanly and clearly and economically as I can.

Annie Dillard wrote:
A well-known writer got collared by a university student who asked, “Do you think I could be a writer?”
“Well, the writer said, “I don’t know…. Do you like sentences?”

Using the minimum number of words in the least number of sentences, I have to create an effective and original piece of writing. With no time pressure on me and the belief that I am doing this to please myself I know I can produce a good story or a nice article. But my job now is to make the story or whatever subject I write about new. As a writer I have to do this with the same old nouns and verbs, the same sentences, parts of speech, the same syntax, grammar, sentence structure and language rules. Impossible.

Carlos Fuentes in a Paris Review interview said:

“In a way we are all involved in the same adventure: to know what you are going to say, to have control over your material, and at the same time to have the margin of freedom which is discovery, amazement, and a precondition of the freedom of the reader.”

The only probable freshness that I can introduce to my writing is with my ideas. And I start to research my material. It’s true that ideas breed ideas because every new thing I learn about my subject causes more ideas to grow in my head. And eventually the story takes shape in my head. Next comes the task of choosing the right words and constructing the right sentence. But I don’t worry about it first, since all I want to do is write my ideas down on paper or on the computer. Then I read and edit and cut. And read again and edit again and cut, cut until the language I use is precise. In the words of Raymond Carver:

“It is possible to write about commonplace things using precise language and send a chill up the reader’s spine.”

Then when it’s over and I have successfully posted on my blog and connected with my readers I am possessed with yet a new anxiety. The anxiety of writing another newer post. Hence the adrenaline rises once more in my blood and I go through the same process and the same level of uncertainty and restlessness. But the love of writing is so strong. And the black ink, and the white paper, it’s all the same thing. I know I cannot quit, I will write all the same, until eventually the words will tell me what I really want to know.

“What success really means, I think, is looking failure in the face and tossing the dice anyway. You may be the only person who ever knows how the dice came up, but in that knowledge you have something that millions of people will never have- because they were afraid to try.” Tom Clancy


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6 Responses to The Anxiety Of Writing

  1. Readers Cafe says:

    Good one. I could perfectly relate to it 🙂

  2. hartsoffice says:

    Great post. There is no reason not to write and when you discover that it is a hard thing to do, and you want to keep trying, then you are a writer, the same goes for a mechanic, a computer programmer or a teacher1

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