If you watch a writer in a coffee shop, you won’t be particularly impressed by her work. You might not even notice that she’s working. The external act of writing is a mundane thing. It is quiet, often deathly so.

ten fingers tapping

long sighs and silent swearing

insomnia cure

You have to slice a writer in half to reveal the invisible truth.

Writing is sudden bursts of brilliance racing ahead with yellow-jersey speed while you labor to catch up with tricycle typing fingers.

It’s a magnificent ache and pointless pursuit sandwich smothered in what-the-hell-was-I-thinking sauce.

It’s creation and destruction. Hope and despair. Love and love and more love.

And death. Lots of death.

It’s making friends and enemies. Then making enemies of friends with a press of the delete button.

It’s a whisper where a shout should be and a shout where the story is yelling at you to whisper.

Writing shrieks like that child screaming for another cookie. It cries like that old man who used to come every Sunday with his wife but now sits alone.

Writing is an empty balloon where your brain should be. It’s a world on the tip of your tongue. It’s a thunderstorm and a desert, a song and an empty stage.

It’s walls everywhere you turn…

You want to jump off a bridge. Wait…a bridge. Yes!

…and inspiration when you least expect it.

Writing is the reason “argh!” is a word.

Your wrists hurt, your head hurts, your heart hurts. You want to throw the computer across the room. You want to marry it.

Writing is a beautiful violence.

But you wouldn’t know it by watching a writer in a coffee shop.

ten fingers tapping

paradox of perfect calm

she is building worlds





61 Replies to “Vivisection”

  1. Oh. My. Every now and then someone comes up with a piece of perfection. It was your turn today.

    Writing is a beautiful violence.

    Hats off to you, maestro. Perfection.

    1. Yes, lots of writerly observations are applicable to life. Writing is real life as seen through a pen. Or maybe real life is writing in 3D. I’m never quite sure which.

    1. I think I need to get a conductor’s baton now so that “maestro” thing makes more sense. I wonder if I can get one that doubles as a magic wand. Anyone know where I can get some elder wood?

    1. Thank you. That is all. Well, not quite all. There’s this, too. And this. And also this. And no, those aren’t links. I’m just filling space in the comment box. I’m done now, though. Almost. Nearly there.


  2. Beautifully said. Writing is like being on the brink of insanity and I love embracing that side of me.

    “Writing is a beautiful violence.”
    And the most poetic of massacre’s.

    1. I like it when I find the words to say the thing that wants to be said. I like it better when those words also to be what someone else needs.

      And anthem? Cool. I like this musical theme. Now, where did I put my wand…I mean baton…

  3. And so then, this is the truth of it. The “But I can’t, I won’t, I don’t know how, I must, I will, I’m Here, Here goes” way it happens. No one notices the beads of sweat (for writers do not perspire) trailing down the back of her neck as she sits in the cooled coffeehouse, her fingers poised and unmoving over the keys. No one notices that she’s a writer, and until she chants her way through her litany and arrives once again at “Here goes,” she wonders every day herself.

    1. Writer’s don’t perspire, but editors do. Buckets.

      But yeah, there is a lot of self-talk. And chanting. And spell casting. And eating of Nutella or drinking of wine. Or things of this ilk. I like that word “ilk.” It’s full of meaning and oh-so-pocket-sized. I might be rambling now. I blame the lack of Nutella. Or abundance of wine. Probably the former. I still haven’t learned how to drink properly.

  4. Brought here by TheBloggess and I have to thank you for such seemingly simple but utterly striking words.

    “Writing is a beautiful violence.”

    The most precious of vices and loveliest of insanities.

    Thank you so much.

  5. “Itโ€™s a magnificent ache and pointless pursuit sandwich smothered in what-the-hell-was-I-thinking sauce.”

    That was enchanting. And true! Thank you for sharing. (And thanks to The Bloggess for tweeting.)

    You are definitely a Word Chef!

  6. I’ve never read anything like this. The way the post is crafted so that the reader could actually visualize the cross-section of a writer is truly amazing. Like Jenny, I too very much needed to read this today. Talk about inspiration . . .

  7. Wow…You are a connoisseur of the written language…you capture the essence of what it is to be a writer, and present it so simply, so beautifully, that even someone who is not a writer can understand the depth and beauty and wonderful exhilaration that is a writer. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    1. Words are my favorite things. Dreams are my second favorite things. Cookies come in third, but that’s not a bad ranking. They still get to stand on the podium for the medal ceremony.

      Oh, and you’re welcome from the bottom of my heart. And also the top of my heart, because it didn’t want to be left out.

  8. “What-the-hell-was-I-thinking sauce” tells me a LOT more about the writing sandwich than “special sauce” tells me about the Big Mac. Which is exactly why I write, and at age 57, have yet to order a Big Mac.

  9. I couldn’t have said this better. Writing is a beautiful violence. And it doesn’t end when the fingers stop moving. Often, my body is here in this world but I’m living in another. Other times I am more alive in this world than I once thought it possible to be. From the outside it looks like flaky unpredictable moodiness. But it’s just because the world looks different to me. Thank you for putting these words to what writing is.

  10. It is a beautiful violence – I’m often amazed at how much goes roiling around without a visible reaction. Except for sometimes on the page.

    1. Every once in a while I see someone fling a virtual pen across the cafe and I’m pretty sure that’s because the inside roiling sometimes boils over. Well, that, and throwing a computer across the room can get expensive.

  11. Wow… You know those pieces of writing that grab you from the first phrase and don’t let go, twisting up your emotions and taking you on a ride?

    This is one of those. It took my breath away, brought me to tears… It’s amazing, thank you.

    1. This wasn’t that slow, ironic clap that’s become such a cliche in movies, was it? Because for that you have to appear out of a crowd, walking slowly toward the target of irony as you’re clapping. And I didn’t see you appear from a crowd, so I’m guessing it was the regular sort of clapping. Oh, wait, you also said “LOVE IT” (in all caps) and included a smiley.

      Um…never mind. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. I would find it pointless to try and top your applause on this post Steve, so instead, I will merely prey they invent the pill from the movie “Limitless,” so I too can one day arrange words in such syntactical marvel.

    1. Feel free to plagiarize. Except I can tell you’re an honest sort of person, so you might want to change your name to Stephen Parolini first. Then it’s a much less egregious crime. Probably.

  13. Hi. I just discovered you and I think you’re swell.

    If you don’t already read enough in your job (doubtful, but worth a shot) and you feel like checking out 22-year-old grad student’s poetry/fiction blog, I’d be honored by your readership. If not, no offense taken–and I still think you’re swell.


  14. I’ve never loved an article from beginning to end before, I just had to tweet it and reblog it on my blog (don’t worry, I cited this website and your name, plagiarism is every writer’s biggest crime) I just had to let everyone know how beautiful this piece of writing is. This is such an awesome writing about writing. Keep on writing!!

    1. Thanks, Sasha. I’ve never loved a comment from beginning to end before. Er…actually, I pretty much love every comment from beginning to end. But especially this one.

      You keep writing, too.

  15. I am in love, and jealous, and totally in awe.

    Le sigh.

    I would love to share this with some of my writer friends by reading it at one of our meetings, but only with your permission. If you would rather I not do that I will be sending them here to read the original.

  16. My friend, Susan, sent me this link.

    I love:
    “Itโ€™s a magnificent ache and pointless pursuit sandwich smothered in what-the-hell-was-I-thinking sauce.”


    “Your wrists hurt, your head hurts, your heart hurts. You want to throw the computer across the room. You want to marry it.โ€

    These are two things that I feel, but have never been able to quite put them into wordsโ€ฆ.

  17. This post may be a year old now, but I keep coming back to it. Every time I hit a roadbump of self doubt, I read this again. And then I get on with it.

    ‘A world on the tip of your tongue.’ Words that aren’t big enough; fingers that aren’t fast enough.

    Thank you for the unwitting comfort.

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