I’m so honored that the Pensacola News Journal chose to publish my piece on what it means to be a writer. I compare the writing process to the weather – there are no two days alike. Enjoy the feature:
Originally published in the PNJ: July 5, 2015.
Being a writer means taking on the weather. We do this without a forecast or meteorologist guiding us. We have clear skies. Storms blow in. We experience cloudy lulls. All are intricate but necessary for natural survival.
On beautiful, clear-sky moments of writing, we may glide at a steady pace. We are focused on the topic. Writing is planned. Time is allotted — one hour, four hours or even days. Words take shape nicely. The wind remains calm, just like the purpose within our story. We sit in our comfy desk chair making notes in a notepad. We lean in to type on a laptop. The rate is steady. The movements are predictable. We marvel at the simple sentence structure we create like a beautiful bird flying gracefully overhead. We smile at the ease of the tick, tap and rapof our fingers hitting the keyboard.
We show up and perform the work. It is a peaceful, beautiful day. Composing is like this for writers some of the time.
Other days the brisk writing wind slaps our face. Ideas are urgent as thunderous deadlines inch closer. Animals (and co-workers) scurry to find shelter. Phrases and dialogue bounce from the brain to the pencil. Shoulders tense. The writer feels the change in pressure, wondering when the storm will peak. Soon our article or feature writes itself. The typing becomes a fierce airstream blowing at records speeds. Hand is throbbing and callused from pressing into paper. The rain arrives, pouring down the “who, what, when, where, why and how.” We are drenched but exhilarated within our writing downpour. Adrenaline is high. We are storm chasers capturing high-profile stories.
Writers all have moments like this. We pull over from driving to reach for a notebook squeezed between car seats. At 1:47 a.m., we are compelled to write an editorial. We can neither explain nor remedy the situation. We hunker down and brace our bodies, pen in hand, for the thrilling hurricane, tornado, blizzard or squall.
Then as quickly as that storm arrived, it often leaves us. The wind changes directions. The rain ceases. Humidity reaches the skin. We stop in our tracks. Our writing suspends, motionless.
Partly cloudy skies appear. Crickets chirp. We want to write but cannot focus. Storm dissipates. Excitement is over. We are left wet and cold. Thoughts drift. Insignificant distractions distress us. Social media begs for attention. Our stomach cries out for food.
We sit or stand feeling empty. We linger for a new story. We wait for the sun to reappear or storm to resurface. We stare at that blank page or computer monitor.
In these instances, we nudge ourselves. We take a step back. We read words aloud. We play music. We stretch or walk. We plead to rejoin that creative writing high zone again.
If it does not come, we shut down or reboot. We wait.
Ideal writing conditions are uninhabitable. We do not always control our projects. Often they choose us. They take over our space – an uninvited gust of wind leaving vulnerabilities. Our writing shocks us, ignite us and connect us to our community.
Writing is never quite the same day twice, like the weather. We learn to embrace the clear, stormy and cloudy days. Ride the current that flows. We writers must carry an umbrella but prepare for kite flying or dancing with tumbleweeds.