Infusing your writing with a kind of extraordinary perception, opening a window for your readers onto a new landscape, a new vision of the world and its wonders, comes from your willingness to acknowledge there is more going on in this life than that which can be quantified, explained, measured or dissected.
You can learn how to write a sentence and a paragraph. You can understand punctuation and all the proper structural conceits. You can write a story with a beginning, middle and end. But unless your writing draws on the unique essence of who you are, what you alone can bring to the piece, it will lack that spark that makes it sing.
What makes a piece of literature reveal itself to another is in large measure directly related to how much risk the writer is willing to take in revealing their own inner process.
So now we must approach our craft with boldness and fearless determination to strip back any veneer of pretense or false images. We must allow our own awe a bigger place at our table. We must allow fear a place, as well, and not just fear of wild beasts or fire or falling down a well. We must allow all of our deepest feelings a place, set our table well, and let the conversation begin.
It is only when we do this that we can apprehend the mystery of really good writing, and begin to open that door that has been so securely locked, bolted, and defended against any intruder, including ourselves.
We have all experienced writing that so lifts us, infuses us with light, that we become inspired, renewed, appreciative of what we never thought anyone could touch within our very soul. There is a magic that instantly connects us with the writer, her characters, her settings, that resonates, calls forth a new music that we never knew resided in us.
Great religious leaders have talked of epiphanies, of being struck by light along the way, of revelations and ecstasies when confronted by their understanding of what is holy. And whether we are religious or not, we experience the more of our world, our relationships, ourselves on a daily basis.
The exercise of inviting the extraordinary into our writing lives is our most important task. It goes beyond practice, it goes beyond scheduling, it must infuse as many of our waking and sleeping moments as we can give it. What we strive to bring to ourselves and our readers is an experience that goes beyond construct and mere curiosity. It is a heart-connection with our world, our relationships, and our writing, that we must have in order to evoke the reader’s response.
Can we define this “more than matter”? Should we try? In quantifying and qualifying its properties have we eviscerated it? Can we really pursue it, or does it simply arrive and present itself when we least expect it? Is it inspiration? Is it our muse?
Some might call it the apprehension of the numinous. And even if you are not religious, if you are a writer, you know there is more than the simple furnishings, or tangibles of life that we are pursuing. Is it deeper understanding? Meaning?
Put these questions in your mind over the next month. Read things that have evoked an extraordinary response in your deepest self. Sit with music that touches your heart.
When you are ready to put pen to paper, do it. Do it if it comes to you in the middle of the night or while you are in the middle of washing the dishes or the dog. Put tears on the page, anger, joy, fear, awe, love, resentment, cowardice, gratitude, boredom. If we are going to write, and write well, we must invite all of these, and their relatives, to our table to be part of the conversation. Let them speak, give them space and be patient while they exercise their new privilege.