There are times when I’m overcome with the urge to write, and a trapdoor opens up in my mind, and I fall through it; the words are waiting for me. If I don’t grasp them in that exact moment then they dissolve, and I’m left with the desire to tell what was there.
Lately I’ve been wanting to write a book, and friends say, “why don’t you just write the next Hunger Games,” or I read about young woman securing million dollar publishing deals, and I think, “yea, why don’t I just do that?,” but the truth is I cannot control what I say, I don’t chose it; it just flows out of me.
Ray Bradbury sat in an attic in Northern California with a family below and tried to scribble stuff down. He only had an hour or two a day because he was too busy trying support his family by lumbering, or being a night-watchmen, or taking his two fingers and picking fruit for an entire summer. In his mid-thirties he was still unpublished and he wrote, “telling my Dad I wanted to be a writer was like telling him I wanted to be a plastic surgeon,” and no one in Bradbury’s family had attended school past the eighth grade.
I recently read an essay by Bradbury, so that’s how I know all of these things, but I needed to hear them. I lament in my own mind for my own personal lack of language; for all the words that won’t come when I call them, and I start to feel a bit sorry for myself, I start to feel like there is nothing for me to say.
This is a common creative problem, and I know I’m not special, but I am the center of my own universe (and let’s be honest, we all are because everything we comprehend emanates from our own point of view), and the problem feels special to me.
Then I learn that Henry Miller, in his 40s was writing in a borrowed room, “Where any minute the chair he is sitting on may be taken out from under him.”
Bradbury wrote that, and he said, “Until recently this state of affairs persisted in my own life,” and I think I can relate, but then not in the same way because I was never that threadbare, yet all creatives need a space to create; that is a must.
But it is more than just space it is the fortitude to show up and sit no matter the circumstance and trust that the words will come; trust is a tricky thing because it asks us to trust it and we never really did in the first place, but it won’t reward us otherwise.
It was freeing to read Bradbury; to learn that he turned to short fiction because that was all the space he had.
I find in my own life that I am stretched with the busyness that has infected 98.7% of people, being pulled in different directions with messages and communication; with interruptions that close those invisible creative doors in our minds. I sit down to write the book that I tell myself to and the clanging in my brain won’t stop, so nothing comes, but after reading Bradbury I realize it doesn’t have to.
I don’t have to write a novel, in fact, I believe the age of the great novel is dissipating (though it breaks my heart) because there is less space for it; people don’t have hours of time to give and there is so much competition for just plain attention. Like all I must work within my limits, despite my occasional lack of faith, discipline and all other self-obstacles.
Bradbury sat in a tiny room above his family, he stole his time and still nothing came, but it didn’t stop him from showing up; from putting his pen to paper and to patiently wait for the story that got him published in Esquire, and when it arrived nothing was ever the same.