Work In Progress
“There is me and a camera in my hand and the stillness. It is everything I ever wanted but never caught in the finished photo. It was a thing caught in the process itself. It’s fucking beautiful.”
These are the first lines of my manuscript, a work-in-progress that amounts to almost two-hundred handwritten pages at the time of this post. She’s a photographer, but those words essentially reflect my feelings about writing, particularly at the beginning, when I’m writing the first draft by hand.
Me. The pen. The humbling acceptance of the blank page.
The most performative thing about writing with pen/pencil and paper are the ink smudges caught inside the deepening lines of your hand, the growing callous inside your middle finger.
I’m not an influencer, there is no shouting from digital rooftops. The only noise is a Lou Reed album and the story inside of my head. I can only serve it with a notebook, follow it down another lonely road. I’m a workhorse and I love the roads, one word after the other, the light is beautiful. I forget myself and at last, the final barrier is removed.
The thing about stories.
It is there, breathing, fragile as smoke. But the thing about stories is that they want to be caught, made an offering, and told. If you don’t have the particular magic it requires, it will let someone else catch it instead.
When I go for it with a butterfly net, it doesn’t recognize me. I must go with cupped hands and steady breath, a promise of ink and gratitude. If I’m a hunter, I’m a humble one. In the margins, I write, “thank you.”
My search history is full of essays about other authors’ writing processes. When I lost my sister over two years ago, I realized I was also obsessed with the process of life. How understanding the process that works for you, and that the process itself fluctuates from one life event to another, from one story to another, helped me get through to the other side.
(Am I on the other side? Is there another side, after all? Beginnings are constructed, and there are always too many loose ends at the end. This is why we need stories, after all: these are the dots, and here are the connections now go forth and be kind.)
Time is so damn short
and if I were to lay down my pen the world would move on without me but if I keep writing for the sake of writing I am for a moment part of something larger and outside of myself. It is easier when it’s something I can carry and it’s not a device that adds to my mental load.
The story in the spiral-bound notebooks is only for me and my accordance with a most petulant muse.
It is our agreed-upon sweet spot.
Other analog writers: Donna Tartt, Lilly King, Elizabeth Strout, Margaret Atwood