Don’t Look at the Words

This post was originally published on CedarWrites as ‘Blind Writing’ in November 2017. I’m off on a field exercise today, shooting wildflowers, so I opted to do a blast from the past post…

Sometimes pulling words out of my head is as hard as pulling teeth. I sit here for long, silent moments before I finally get the fingers into motion and make words come out. And even then, it might only be in an exercise like this, where the brain feels fuzzy and empty, like a warm glowing mist universe. There’s not a lot going on in there, it’s all just soft and uncertain, nothing sharp and defined. Words are crisp, their edges hard. It’s like my digital painting efforts. For some reason my work on the screen looks soft and furry. On paper I can manipulate a brush to lay down ink or paint just so, and the result is purposeful, direct, clear. Most of the time. Some days it just doesn’t gel.

Like today and words. I can sentence. I can’t plot. I’m not even sure I can essay. Heck, even sentencing isn’t easy when I start thinking about it too much and don’t let my fingers do the flying on autopilot. It’s a good thing no one has to edit this!

Blind writing. I’m not a good enough touch-typist to actually close my eyes and type. I need to be able to at the least see the words as they scroll across the screen. I remember learning to type. Mom found a manual typewriter somewhere. I know now that it was an engineering thing of beauty, but at the time it was literally a pain – it hurt my hands to hammer away on it. I think she was not only anticipating the need for typing (this was far before the era of computing, so I don’t think that was part of it) but also she was trying to get me to write. Up until I was about 14, she had to force me to write. I hated to write at all and would sit and sulk for hours over homework that wanted me to put more than two sentences down for an answer. But in my freshman year of highschool, the cork was drawn, and I started to write and haven’t stopped since. I wrote essays, fiction, poetry…

I wrote a lot of poems. Most of my journals are long lost now. But I filled a few every year with journaling and poetry. Stories about my life, and later, the babies as they came along. Poetry was as compelling for me as fiction is, now. I have a vivid memory of one long poem coming out while I was out with friends, and them basically shielding me and guiding me back to the car to return to dorms because that poem was pouring out of me. Years later, one of them found me on facebook and asked for a copy of that. I don’t know if I even have a copy of it any longer.

The poetry came to a crashing halt one night when I was arguing with my fiance, and I wanted to write out how I felt, because I was better able to express myself on paper than in words. I was literally tongue-tied, and he lost his temper with me. After that, at age twenty or so, I stopped writing again. The cork was back in the bottle. I tried to pull it out, a few years later, but it was wedged in there pretty hard. Only once did it pop out on it’s own, at the nadir of my life, when I realized that this could not go on. Coming back out of that, the poetry flowered again for a few days, and then it was gone again, like a desert spring. It would never come back again. The poems I still physically possess are in the most part really awful. Trite, badly written, just… dreck.

But in the wake of their passing, I found fiction again. And in the creation of worlds to tell my daughter a story, I rediscovered the intoxication of writing characters and having them come to life in my head. Daydreaming on the page. It’s really the best high when it’s going well. It’s a complete pain in the tush when it’s not, and I know better, now, than to let it go dormant. I have to push, sometimes, to get that cork loose and the story pouring out. Because I know now what I didn’t know back in the day. I’m not on the outside pulling the cork. I’m on the inside pushing it out and gaining my freedom. The genie is out of the bottle, and nothing can keep me locked up in there again.

I write. I am a writer. I don’t have a choice, the words need out. I don’t need readers, although they make me happy. But I must write. Even if I can’t see what the words are doing until they’re out of me and lined up across the page in formation. I’m not a neat and tidy writer. It’s a messy process, like fingerpainting in the dark. Sometimes, you flip the light on to take a look and flip it right back off. Other times, you turn it on and giggle a little because it worked, it really worked.

11 thoughts on “Don’t Look at the Words

  1. Other than simple functional work for pre-college (e.g., simulated poetry — clever, no heart), I never felt the urge to create fictional worlds until roughly a dozen years ago, and that started with a novel (I do few short works). It was a thrill from the first, but the biggest hump to get over was the uncertainty of inexperience: not knowing if I could keep it going for an entire 100K work as something anyone would want to read. And then doing it again. And again.

    It’s a bit like a musical instrument — getting to the point that you can produce something others are willing to hear (if only in the background, at a dance). I took up a fiddle in my 30s (after a decayed childhood adequacy in piano and guitar and continuing activity in song) with a “how hard can it be?” attitude and was delighted (eventually) with the result — competence to play for a specialized genre and a deep understanding of the repertoire (

    That experience was key to persisting with my first book, and the dam was broken. Once I realized that long form story telling was possible for me, and that I didn’t have to master every tool at once — that I could select the tools that worked for me — I’ve never looked back. I couldn’t stop the words from flowing now, if I tried. My experience in chemo of outlining the next book even when I didn’t feel like getting out of bed and typing convinced me that there is no stopping this, short of death or Alzheimers (which ever comes first). I can’t stop the fabulating, and once that happens, the writing itself is the easy (if slower) part — just get out the favorite Bunte cake mold, pour the batter in with alternating layers, and bake.

  2. As a teen, I wrote to escape. As I’ve mentioned before, me and reality had a distant relationship for a while, and writing fiction and poetry let me get everything out before it exploded, or I did. Ditto when I worked for a … less than ideal … supervisor. The words have slowed on occasion, or been diverted into non-fiction temporarily, but I’m always telling stories, with or without footnotes and a thirty page bibliography.

    I have to ask, since you’re shooting wildflowers – how bad is the recoil, and how many rounds can you load? Do compositae scatter shots wider than do bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush? *races for cover under the bed*

  3. I draw pictures. Whether with words or with voice or with pixels/pigments. (I really dislike taking photos – don’t know why, my dad was a very good photographer (had is own darkroom), and I WANTED to do the same, was always embarrassed/awkward with it.)

    Any way I have gone years without writing fiction, but, the fiction and/or non-fiction has come out through voice – acting, role-playing, talking to people, and more especially through pixels/pigments. I did traditional art before learning digital. And I often find that if I’m deep in the throes of art, that writing is much harder to do. And vice versa. And it effects words, too. It’s like I have different right-brain compartments, and only one can be activated at a time fully (like trying to adjust the hot and cold water with a one-handled faucet).

    I admit to have committed poetry, more while doing creative writing classes, than outside that (filled with lots of teen angst), but I have written lyrics (folk/filk) and now I do rhyming couplets for my kid’s books (which is stopping me currently, as I can’t figure out the rhymes for my current one!).

    Sometimes I feel that RPG DMing and sometimes playing has sucked all the stories out of me. You have to do so much off the cuff, and we don’t do long games (just hubby and me playing, now) so, it quickly moves from one setting to another. And I enjoy the creation of worlds far more than filling them out long term, it seems. (Thus MANY started stories, and little completed).

    Trying to find a balance between them, ways to make images flow in word and writing and art….all I can do is keep trying.

  4. I started writing to have something to read in a state of word deprivation, but then I wrote to chase ideas out of my head.

  5. Since (surprisingly) no one has asked it yet, I will. What caliber for wildflowers? 🤣

    On the actual topic of today’s post, I recently realized that I’ve been trying to write fiction for years, it’s just that the stories never made it onto a page. When I was younger, I basically created several completely different Star Trek fan-fic or WW 2 storylines in my daydreams (and sometimes night dreams, too), but never got the urge to write them down.

    I would create a character or situation, then start working out all the details of where they came from, how they got into the situation, and what happened next. Sometimes in excruciating detail. After spending the last few years lurking on various author / writing blogs, I guess that finally pushed me over the line.

    And thus, the ‘Republic of Texas Navy’ series was born.

  6. *Comes to look at comments, starts laughing at the inevitable question…*
    Since you asked! Yesterday was primarily the 55-250mm, with a little of the 100mm macro action.

  7. The times I’ve tried blind typing were generally NaNoWriMo and late at night, so I had a tendency to fall asleep 🙂

    Recording audio files and running them through an AI transcription service has worked fairly well as a blind typing analogue.

Comments are closed.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: