I have been working these past five days or so on some articles for a new website my writing partner and I are launching. It’s a place to help individuals find that flame that’s burning inside of them that, somehow along the way, was nearly extinguished. Life gets in the way, and if we’re not careful, our lefts and rights lead us far from who we once were.
Writing these pieces is a challenge–at least in this initial step of getting started. We’re writing for a particular audience, and we need to be consistent in our message; we need to be calculated in how we roll out our message to help others use writing, the fine arts, and meditation to rekindle that flame.
This is not one of those things you just throw together. We can’t just write on a few topics, get into a groove with the formula, and let the words flow endlessly from the tips of our chiseled fountain pens. It goes deeper than that for our readers simply because it goes deeper for us as writers, as individuals. We’re practicing what we’re preaching, and it’s not easy to peel back a few of the layers to get to that glowing ember within you. Not when those layers remain open hours on end, sometimes carefully put back in place while you carry on with this and that, but open they remain–tender, vulnerable.
It’s the love/hate relationship I have with writing. I’ve had my share of memories this week–mostly good. Reminders here and there of days long, long past. At one point, they seemed to parade by me one by one, a never-ending stream of don’t-you-forgets. When this happens, the connections between past and present are a writer’s threads to weave meaningful pieces for his readers. This wondrous torture needs more time, though, more hours, more moments strung together to reach a place that is both satisfying for the reader and barely acceptable to the writer.
As I said, this is not easy.
I have read hundreds if not thousands of quotes on writing, have been given direct advice from best-selling authors to lucky hacks. Their message is same: Just write the damned thing, place butt-in-chair, open a vein, etc. But what they don’t tell you is the inner struggle to create, shape, sculpt, refine, polish amidst a constantly changing backdrop of demands and temptations. No matter how you get it done, opening a vein is a painful procedure, and closing the wound afterward almost always leaves some kind of scar. But through the stitches, through the mending layers of flesh, the flame pulses a little more brightly, thanks to the courage it took to finish what you started.
I read an article earlier today in The Atlantic (“Is Google Making us Stupid?”) that does a great job of explaining how we are beginning to think differently because of the amount of time we spend online and the frequency with which we communicate in short quips of information. I am deeply terrified by this, and yet, I see that I am just as susceptible as anybody else to having my mind map rewired to avoid longer sessions of reading, thinking, savoring. I used to rant about the fact that everybody was providing services in or under an hour (food, photo, drycleaning, etc.), and when somebody took longer, they lost our business. Now, though, it’s become exponentially worse, where we are craving immediate responses to texts, personal instant messages, and witty status updates on a variety of social networks.
This is what I fear. Writing will take too long. Opening a vein will be reserved for the artistic extremists, and our means of communication will run no deeper than the jet ski that skims the water’s surface–barely–as it cruises at speeds never intended for our reflective, contemplative minds.
Makes me want to end my stint on Facebook. Drop the data plan on my phone. Go into seclusion with my words and release them as often as possible. Definitely makes me want to cut the already-wireless cable entirely and rediscover what I sense is slipping away a little more with each new log-on. I wonder if it’s too late already. I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s too late to heed to the oft-cliche “Use it or lose it.”
I don’t know. I will finish these articles and get this site up and running with my partner, but I do not do it lightly. The finished pieces will resemble little the drafts that looked more like open heart surgery than cookie-cutter cheer-ups to help you find your way. They may seem clean and sterile in the end, but they got that way because we believed in their importance, their necessity, to help each and every one of us hold on to that flame flickering dimly within.
I still believe it’s there. I really do.
The question is: Do you?