One word at a time

one_wordWhen asked, ‘How do you write?’ I invariably answer, ‘one word at a time.’ – Stephen King

Sometimes I catch a glimpse of the future. Whether is just a scene from a chapter I have yet to write, or the ending line, or just a few lines of dialogue. That’s magic. That’s power. I know something that no one else knows, and it’s entirely up to me to bring it to life.

And I want to get there. Now. I want to get to that scene, I want to write everything down. I feel there’s no time. Breathing fast and brokenly like a fish out of water, I try my best to write as many words as possible. And I’m afraid. Somehow, I’m afraid I won’t get there. I don’t want for the magic to get lost, to dissipate into the busy murmurs of true life.

But then I have to remind myself that you can only write one word at a time. It’s as simple, as difficult, as painful as that. And I have to let each word lead me to the next. I have to let the words show me the way.

This might sound like crazy talk to you, but, well, I never said I was normal, did I?

Sometimes I feel so much energy rushing through my veins that it paralyses me. I want to get the story out, but I don’t want to get it out one word after another. I want to get it out now. So most times I end up writing nothing.

And it’s strange because we always get there. And at the end of the day, when we re-read what we’ve written, we can’t really tell the difference between what came effortlessly and what came at a great price. You know, the words we had to bleed out of our soul.

One word at a time. One word after another. Slowly, painfully slow sometimes, but words form sentences, sentences form paragraphs, and paragraphs form chapters.

And sometimes we look back and we can’t understand how everything happened…

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38 comments on “One word at a time

  1. I get what you’re saying. Some days I will think up a story in my head, but forget I have to write it all down first lol.

  2. momentmuser says:

    We always do get there. :) I’m encouraged by your words! Been feeling the same struggle here recently.

  3. Writing is quite the process, and truly a fine art – painful and joyful all at the same time… thanks for sharing…

  4. Very true!!
    I completely relate to this ;-)

  5. I love this. “a glimpse of the future…” I’d never thought of it like that, but that’s exactly what happens, isn’t it? It’s such a painful thrill.

  6. One of my favorite quotes from King. And a very insightful post. Thanks!

  7. Gaini Zhulamanova says:

    So true! “Sometimes I feel so much energy rushing through my veins that it paralyses me. I want to get the story out, but I don’t want to get it out one word after another. I want to get it out now. So most times I end up writing nothing.” – this is how I feel when I start writing.

  8. Deeksha says:

    This is so relatable..! Even I always fret in agony when I’m unable to write something that is so clear in my head..

  9. My brain is a kaleidoscope of words. Sometime they come through my hand and land on the paper, and sometime they hit the wall.

  10. magunede says:

    This is excellent. You have put into words what I’ve tried articulating my whole life when asked how I do things.

  11. Beautifully stated! I especially loved your phrase “…the words we had to bleed out of our soul.” That is so true! Gene Fowler, an author, said, “Writing is easy. All you have to do is stare at a blank piece of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.”

  12. Everything you’ve said is so true! We all have stories that we are desperate to tell,yet more often that not, there are stories we know nothing about waiting patiently to appear!

  13. David says:

    Both starting and finishing writing down a sentence, a paragraph, or something whole feels like a wondrous, but thankfully predictable miracle. dd

  14. rmcalzada says:

    Even a comment of gratitude can feel painstaking. Yet here I am to deliver it. Cristian, thank you for speaking to the struggle, effort, and reward cycle that we as writers must contend with.

  15. Thank you for such an inspiring outlook on the process of writing. There are so many times that an idea for something to write will surface in my mind, and it’s so wonderful and exciting that the idea of writing it is daunting because I’m certain I won’t be able to do it justice. But your words provide the reminder that all we have to do is start, one word at a time.

  16. Amy says:

    A great description of the writing process. I can’t wait to share it with my writing students. I particularly like this part, “I want to get the story out, but I don’t want to get it out one word after another. I want to get it out now. So most times I end up writing nothing.” Yes, the writing process is about getting through that paralysis, getting what’s in your head on the page in a way that reflects what’s in your head. I appreciate your voice. Easy reading is hard writing and you are very easy to read.

  17. MOMENTS says:

    Wonderful inspiring words on the process of writing. Beautiful prose-poetry. Advice: It really helps to write one word at a time if you are always carrying a small paper notebook. All of a sudden if an idea comes to your mind you immediately write it down. You can always go back to your draft and elaborate. Even at night it helps to have your notebook lying on your night table.

  18. Mary McNabb says:

    You’ve captured the writing process in all its messy glory, Cristian!

  19. “And at the end of the day, when we re-read what we’ve written, we can’t really tell the difference between what came effortlessly and what came at a great price.”
    Yes. Sometimes, the words flow. And sometimes, you have to beat them out of your head with a bludgeon. I think people are enamored with the idea of writing as a gift that comes unbidden from the gods. In reality, it’s work. No more, no less.
    Thanks for this.

  20. Gail Kaufman says:

    That’s so true, Cristian. And don’t even get me started about the editing and rewrites.

  21. So many times I’ve caught myself in that rush you’re talking about. With thoughts, imagea and ideas running much faster than I would ever be able to write them down. The thing is, it’s almost imposible to bring them back.
    Such relatable post! Makes me feel less akward. Thanks for sharing.

  22. Angela says:

    So encouraging!

  23. Very relatable and well-written!

  24. This is excellent. Has it ever happened to you that you read something you wrote a while ago and marvel at it? Like a reader, and not the writer and you have absolutely no recollection of how those words poured out onto paper? Like there was a story there all along waiting to be told and it chose you as the medium, so you were only the messenger and not the creator? It happens to me where it’s just waiting to ooze out and unfortunately it usually happens at bedtime and i am always too lazy to get up and write it down. And other times, writing is so painful, the words bump against each other and just refuse to line up.

  25. humblepie8 says:

    wow! this is amazing 😀 thank you

  26. I have nothing much to say apart from that I am smiling because it’s so spot-on. Thank you for sharing the words.

  27. Thanks for the post. Telling the story a word at a time is what it’s all about. Using the wrong word can completely upset what you’re trying to do, so yes, you’re doing this all one word at a time.

  28. Reminds me of Flaubert, who had a manic creative edge about him. He would re-write the same sentences sometimes a hundred times. A perfectionist and someone in love with his work. “I am leading an austere life, stripped of all external pleasure, and am sustained only by a kind of permanent frenzy, which sometimes makes me weep tears of impotence but never abates. I love my work with love that is frantic and perverted…”

  29. Thank you. Your post is an important reminder for those of us who grow impatient.

  30. I am such an impatient writer. I will have this brilliant idea only to find that I don’t know how to end it and never start writing it at all. Or maybe I’ll have this momentary blink of a scene and I’ll HAVE to write it in somewhere, it’s so beautiful and captivating and I’ll try to figure out how I can fit it into my story but when I eventually do it makes no sense at all. I have to get everything out now when I can or else I’ll completely scratch everything.

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