Anyone who has been with their writer lover/partner/friend in the moment an idea starts to take shape…watching us rudely pull out our phones mid-sentence during an important conversation or get up in the middle of a movie to go find a napkin to write on…the dissociative state, searching for a medium to record our inspiration…our partners know us.
We won’t return to them until we have either succeeded or failed to extract the thought from our heads. They will witness a birth or a death. Either relief and euphoria at having caught and caged the little mouse scurrying around our minds — or literal grief at the loss of something brilliant. All five stages. We suffer. And it can be so hard for our people to understand, so they held our hand. Sometimes they get angry and yell in protest. But they know who they love.
Are we writers because we don’t trust our brains to hold all of the beautiful ideas that are swimming around in it? Because they feel bigger than we are…more important than we are. We don’t see them as a piece of us. They are better than us. When they break the surface, we have to rescue them or they will drown in the murky waters that exist behind our eyes and under our hair. I feel that way sometimes.
Other times it feels like a release — if I put it on paper, I don’t have to carry it around anymore. The weight is lifted and my burden is lighter. I can take that rock out of my backpack and set it down for a moment. There’s an ease…a resolution.
Here’s what I find the most beautiful and why I get lost in Medium for hours and hours. I see your soul. I see your aura and your patience and the color of your brilliance. I see things hiding underneath the surface that you can’t access. I see your scars. I see the pain you can’t talk about and the love you didn’t receive and all the love you are willing to give. And I feel connected to you.
No two people will write the same way because they don’t have access to the same words. They don’t have the same vocabularies or tools…they don’t have the same neural pathways that generate the same sentence structures. Every phrase communicated…those you don’t even think about…is a goddamn snowflake. Instead of, “Me too”, my autistic daughter says, “Same as I”. Mother fucking beautiful.
All writers have a lockbox. A lexicon. A bank of words to which only they have access. Phrasings and locution particular to the individual that grow more intricate, complex, and unique with time’s passing. That box is filled with words acquired on one’s unique journey…words pulled and processed and stored from elementary school vocab lessons, from song lyrics out of CD covers when you were a teen, from a back-turned google search in the corner of a party after an intimidating conversation that you pretended to understand. Begrudging words from your SAT prep that still have negative associations attached when you recall them, words from five-hour conversations at 3 am that felt like five minutes and how is the sun now rising? And from your mom’s friend who would always come over high, even though you didn’t know what “high” meant at the time. You knew she made you uncomfortable, but you also knew she said some really profound shit. You have a cache of insider industry jargon from the job you hate, but that gives you a sense of importance and status in your profession. And you have medical terminology from when your favorite uncle was diagnosed with stomach cancer and even more words from the tear-stained conversations you had trying to figure out how to let him go.
Some words came with the box, some were stuffed in there against your will, and some were extracted from the world around you and cradled and bathed and stored in the top drawer for special occasions.
Words themselves have tribes. Families.
“Ephemeral” is my most recent crush. It was pulled, atrophied, from the back of my brain, dusted off, and given a special shelf recently when I read it in a book and was moved by the author’s usage. It feels like angels. Like seeing the most awe-inspiring ghost. You’re afraid when you see it and even more afraid that it will leave. In my mind, “ephemeral” is the love child of “ethereal” and “fleeting”. “Ethereal”, cousin of “empyreal”, step-sister to “celestial”, and niece of “seraphic”. That author changed my writing. Our writing is not just shaped by who we are, it is who we are. It is our memories and our experiences…each and every casually or carefully chosen word is a connection.
Even now, in this moment, there’s a word I can’t bring forth and it’s giving me a headache. I’ve scoured my preferred thesaurus sites…can not access it. It’s locked. But I know it will come to me at an inopportune time, say mid-coitus when my brain is free to operate unconstrained, and I will have to interrupt one lover to satisfy the other. My primary and my secondary.
Writing is also shaped by geography. A piece I write in a coffee shop in Beijing where I, a woman who doesn’t speak Mandarin, somehow just managed to order coffee from a man who doesn’t speak English, ironically — word-less-ly — that piece will have a different tenor than one written on my laptop while sitting on my couch while my daughters enjoy a Friday off of school and I get interrupted for the 50th time. And those will both be different than the one I write when I sneak naked out of my lover’s bed at 2 am and sit cross-legged on the living room couch to commune with the stillness of the night and my sated body…and my thoughts. They are all different, yet exist in the same piece.
Reading back is crushing or euphoric. It’s talking to myself from yesterday. Incredulous at how I could be so redundant…or so fucking beautiful. I’m a momentary imposter in hopeless, unrelenting love with my primary….my words. High in the moment for all the love I have given, I am getting love back. Praying for forgiveness from my secondary…praying for grace from my thirds.–
Originally Published on Medium
Improve your writing, expand your reach, and monetize your craft!
We welcome all experience levels.