• Alyssa Rogan

dear writer, be still

I'm almost certain it was Wednesday night.

Yes, it must have been, because Thursday ended in a deluge of tears that I slipped on as I descended the stairs that night with puffy eyes and pruny cheeks (but that's a story for another time).

Wednesday night did not end so tragically. Quite the opposite, actually. I was curled up in the recliner in my room, laptop open to the ten tabs on my screen. Tabs that, among others, said Reverse Outline - Draft Two, early sketches, Order of Operations Draft Two, and Articles.

A candle flickered on the stack of books from the end table, permeating the air with a sweet scent that reminded me of plastic candy made with artificial sweeter. On my left, the dark shadow of my reflection in the window kept me company.

She'd been watching me suffer for a full hour as I outlined the second draft of my WIP (work in progress). It wasn't that I wasn't in the headspace to write (although my work shift from earlier that day had left me particularly exhausted), but I simply couldn't think of anything. I didn't know what was supposed to happen next.

The colon on the digital clock blinked at me aggressively, as though reminding me that an hour had passed without me having added more than one word on my outline; and any minute I would need to take a shower, get ready for bed, and tuck myself under the covers if I harbored any hope of feeling energized for work tomorrow.

It was 9:00 p.m. already.

Then, out of nowhere--or perhaps out of the stressful realization that time was ticking away--the words came. I jammed the keyboard faster than someone trying to detonate a bomb before the whole thing blew, and maybe that's what I was doing, too--typing out the words before the magic blew.

I typed up nearly one page in about ten minutes. That's more than I'll sometimes produce in one day, seeing as though this outline has demanded more of my creative energy than any of my other projects.

By why at the end? Where did that rush of imagination come from? And why after one full hour of squinting at the screen?

I can't answer that. My bursts of creativity, it seems, arrive at sporadic times and without my permission. It will amble or sprint or stumble in at the exact time it wants, and the most I can do is sit. Be still. Make space for it.

I say this all because I don't want you to give up on yourself. I don't want you to doubt that you'll find the answer, the plot point, the theme, the conflict, the character, or whatever it is you're looking for. Give yourself time. Be patient. Sometimes it requires showing up at the computer, even if the page is blank.

Don't agitate yourself. Don't curse or scream at yourself for falling short. For leaving your characters in the dark. Dear writer, be still. It's all there beneath the surface, lodged in your subconscious. Trust your gut. Trusted that the story is fully formed--that you are merely the archeologist, dusting off the dinosaur bone by bone. Pretty soon you'll be able to assemble the whole skeleton.

But first, you need to show up. And wait.

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