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Writing What Wants To Be Written

by Emon Hassan on November 15, 2008

Good writing always does this to me; makes me want to write. Anything. The urge emerges, the itch in the palms, the shifting ass cheeks on the chair every few seconds, the scratching of face. Whether those are common symptoms, I don’t know.

It becomes at that point a fight among ideas, stories, and childhood anecdotes – which one of those do I absolutely have to, need to, write right now?

By the time I’ve reached for a pen and paper (iPhone in this case) the stories that had just a few seconds ago marched with bold ambitions start to slow down, concerns appearing on their faces. They look at each other and do a polite ‘you first, please’ and then at me with those eyes hoping I pick one of them and just end this misery.

If only it was easy to pick stories to tell. Story ideas are like guests. First few minutes of their arrival makes you feel special, wanted, loved, and honored. As the minutes pass and you are actually attending to their needs and making sure they feel welcome and at home, you start to wonder why they visited you and not their other friends. You want to know if this is a pity visit.

I’m reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. I haven’t read any other book that captures the simultaneous suffering, joy, and the craziness of being a writer. The feeling I had from reading a chapter like ‘Plot Treatment’ is similar to watching the most beautiful sunset in the world all the while hearing the sun tell you what it goes through with the heat, the atmosphere, the cold nights on the other side, the loneliness of the vast space that surrounds it, the distance it feels from all the other planets, the agony of being the star that stands out among all the others – the gas, the meteors, the explosions, the implosions…

Yet all we see and remember is that beautiful sunset, the one reminding us of the past, those beautiful blue eyes, the slight breeze, the love lost, the wisdom gained, or the simple and practical, like the amassed rollover minutes on my mobile plan.

In one of the chapters, Lamott talks about praying so she can get out of the way of what wants to be written.

For the past half hour, I got in the way with this long post trying hard to not seem vulnerable and wounded about why the line kept circling in my head, of what wanted to be written – ‘I’ve loved quite a few people in my life, but only wanted you to be my wife.’

Now that it’s written. Now that I’ve gotten out of the way. I should expect less suffering to accompany writing?

Surely not. Suffering is jogging for writers. Done right, it keeps us fit.

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