It goes by many names. The Tingle. The Aha. The Wow.
I call it The Shiver.
It’s that moment when you know you’ve written something good; something worthy of sharing. The words themselves aren’t anything special. They’re common words, words you’ve used before.
But this time it’s different. The words…they…you have no words to describe it. They. Just. Work.
For half a second you wonder if you actually wrote them. Are there writing elves? No, it was you. Surely not the you who labors over every sentence and struggles to put a thousand words on the page. Could it be the same you who daily considers trading your laptop for a job at McDonald’s?
It has to be some other you – a better you, a more talented you.
This is what it means to be a writer, you think, to put words together in such a way that they become something more.
The Shiver is evidence of beauty, proof of God. It is writerly bliss.
For a sentence or a paragraph or a whole chapter you were brilliant. This isn’t arrogance, it’s the most humbling of truths. You just created a “third place” with your words – a place where your story breathes on its own, the place readers will someday fall in love with a story and its author.
Do you feel it? No, not the bliss. The other thing. The nasty thing hiding behind it.
The Shiver is writerly panic.
What if you never feel it again? What if this was your only taste of the transcendent? What if you never write another sentence half as beautiful? What if that better you never shows up again? What if…what if…
Stop it. You’re ruining the moment.
Enjoy The Shiver. Bask in it. Parade your Shiver-words in front of all your writer-friends or hold them tight like a secret treasure, whichever makes you happiest. But enjoy this moment. The Shiver is all yours. It doesn’t come from some better version of you – it comes from the same you who labors over every sentence.
Then get back to writing. Get back to work. If you’re lucky, The Shiver will have a long tail. Eventually, though, it will fade and you’ll start to feel the struggle again. The blank page will mock you. You’ll litter your desk with bribes for writing elves. You’ll see McDonald’s every time you pick up your laptop. When this happens, and it will, repeat the following statement: This is what it means to be a writer, to keep putting words together even when they don’t become something more.
A writer who only believes himself a “real” writer when he feels The Shiver is bound for failure. A writer’s gift is acknowledged in The Shiver, but the writer is made by the all writing in between.
Note: There were no Shiver moments in the writing of this post. I’m okay with that.