The Writing Process: Down the Rabbit Hole

06.03-rabbit-hole

Writing is like spending time on the cross, when you die painfully every moment; other times it’s like the resurrection, when you feel fresh and alive and brand-spanking-new.

The ideas usually tumble and turn in your head for a while, but it is not until the buzzer is blaring that you begin to truly obsess about it. It starts when you’re alone, because it is only through solitude that one can trace that distinct emotional and psychological scent. In the beginning it usually comes in a series of rasps and screams, a hint of glitter and promise here and there, perhaps some rage or motivation, and then it is gone.

You go through your day just like any other day except with purpose. You might not be fully conscious of it, but from there, everything you see, hear or read will somehow be connected to that purpose. Like savage little monkeys, the urge stabs at you from all directions—following you, bothering you. Then things begin to make sense. You begin to observe people, both actual and virtual. You begin to listen, watch, sniff and spy. You take down notes—mental notes, actual notes, notes in your phone. Sometimes you even wake up at night and write notes in the dark because you don’t fully want to wake up (unless you need to pee). You don’t question these cravings and just let it collect. You know that the heart is the puzzle of the brain and so you use these feelings as a compass, as an article of faith.

Then, after accumulating enough material, you begin to write. Just entering words and phrases. Ordering. Structuring. Transcribing. Not caring. You try to make chocolate out of chicken shit. You feel elated, sometimes great and sometimes frustrated. But then after a while you try and forget about it, because as Ernest Hemingway once said, “The first draft of anything is always shit.” 

And then finally it comes: the choice, the point of no return. From experience you know that too much theoretical deliberation should not be allowed, instead you must hurl yourself in physically, without hesitation and with total commitment.

“This is your last chance. After this there is no turning back. You take the blue pill, the story ends—you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” —Morpheus, The Matrix

matrix red pill

On your way down you realize that no one can help you, that if you don’t do something no one else will.

You try to tap into your emotions and drop all of your micro-managed morals. You know you have no use for them now. Like new-age, time-out parents, you know they won’t get you through mediocrity because they are bereft of the crippling honesty your craft demands. Prudence and moderation is useless at this point because you know that excess and defiance are what will get you there.

Then at a certain juncture you break through. You feel a sensation of force and at that moment you become absolutely certain. Undeniable. Doubtless. This is the high you’ve been chasing after—a high unequaled by any smoke, pill or booze. You cannot buy it with money because you can only pay for it by going through the process, the experience. Like arriving at the peak, you savor it for a while before preparing to descend. It may last you a little bit, but you know that eventually you will have to go out and get it again.

And it may be different next time. A different creature. A different quest. A different obsession. But that is what’s good about it. You’ll never know until you get there. That’s why you got into this in the first place—because you know, that compared to most everything else you do in life, this one has no rules.

This one is anything goes.

Anne Rice

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5 comments

    1. Read your post too. Kind of the counter measure of “being too deep,” which is also necessary otherwise you turn into someone who locks himself in the closet every Friday night 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

      1. Of course. It’s rare that I follow blogs, but I’m officially following yours, and hoping I get email notifications when you post. Sigh! I still have trouble figuring out the mechanics of social media.

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