There is a tiny flame that burns deep within a writer. A pilot light. In moments – some lingering, some fleeting – that pilot light sparks to life and becomes a furnace of ideas. Great books have been stitched together from such moments.
These are not sweet and beautiful moments. There are no butterflies whispering perfect words into your ears. There are no fairies singing songs of your literary brilliance. These are pain-filled moments where orcs threaten you with bodily harm and the flame itself threatens to incinerate your soul.
Your fingers fly across the keyboard not in delight, but chasing fire. You fear the unpredictable flame, as well you should, but the end of it more.
So you type and type and type and type and type like a rocking horse winner, praying that it will be a refining fire that melts away everything except the truth and not a conflagration that burns your city of ideas to the ground.
Without warning, it fades. It recedes. It dims. Your fingers slow. So too, your body, your brain, your belief in yourself.
The once-febrile world inside your head grows cold. Doubt thrives in the cold.
“You can’t heat a room with a pilot light,” it says.
“Just test the words in your mouth,” it tempts. “You know the ones.”
(The words taste like ashes and rust. And oddly, like candy.)
Some have said that what defines a writer is an unavoidable compulsion to write. “I can’t not write,” they proclaim. But what if that’s a lie? What if you can quit?
What if you could close the laptop, put down the pen, and walk away. Go back to living in the moment instead of filing every observation away for future consideration by firelight.
It should be easy. Just say these two words. Recite this incantation. This promise.
It would be so easy, but for the problem of sparks. They’re everywhere.
In a song
In a laugh
In a vacant look from the stranger who is watching you write a blogpost from across a crowded coffee shop
If you are a writer, your pilot light can not be extinguished. It will continue to burn, faint and blue. Waiting.
In a vacant look from the stranger…SPARK!
Damn. I was hoping it would stick this time.
I think I just un-quit.
“There are two kinds of ache in a writer’s life – the ache of writing and the ache of not writing. Pick one and live with it.” – Me