Fidget, type, delete, stand up, sit down, walk aimlessly, sing, talk to myself, stare out the window. Repeat. Sometimes words flow. Other times they stick stubbornly amidst cobwebbed clutter. Writing, though exhausting, is important for me not just because it is the primary means through which I share my work with others, but also because it is a process through which I discover, generate, clarify, and organize ideas. But oh, is it hard. Lynn Hunt has a fabulous essay on this exact subject, an excerpt of which is below. It’s always good to know we are not alone in our self-made battles.
Everyone who has written at any substantial length, whether prose or poetry, knows that the process of writing itself leads to previously unthought thoughts. Or to be more precise, writing crystallizes previously half-formulated or unformulated thoughts, gives them form, and extends chains of thoughts in new directions. Neuroscience has shown that 95 percent of brain activity is unconscious. My guess about what happens is that by physically writing—whether by hand, by computer, or by voice activation (though I have no experience of the latter)—you set a process literally into motion, a kind of shifting series of triangulations between fingers, blank pages or screens, letters and words, eyes, synapses or other “neural instantiations,” not to mention guts and bladders. By writing, in other words, you are literally firing up your brain and therefore stirring up your conscious thoughts and something new emerges. You are not, or at least not always, transcribing something already present in your conscious thoughts. Is it any wonder that your neck gets stiff?
Now, back to writing.