Is there such a thing as a writer who knows what they are doing? If there is, I would love to learn their secret. Writing for me is just an extension of life. Bumbling about like a sailor on the high seas, flung from one side to the other by rough weather, marvelling at the sound of the wind in the sails.
So much of writing is scribbles and half-forgotten notes, night thoughts and random electrical signals floating past. Much of it is just being awake and alert to catching flotsam as it goes by, for me anyway. I’m sure there are more orderly people about who have formulas and routines and know what they are doing. It might be a phrase half-heard; a scene witnessed from the corner of my eye. A conversation, the tail end of a joke and what if….? And how?
Some formless mist, like ectoplasm, weaving in and out of rational thought and day to day life. Settling now and again, forming up and slipping away, particles of solid matter amid the fog. Watching a print emerge from chemical solutions. And there he is…..And that’s what she would say…until it all joins itself together and I’m humming along.
I write long. who knows? Every part over-explained, over-exposed and awkward. The characters long-winded bores in conversation, explaining everything. Much of the process for me is cutting back and back once the body of the work is down in print. An exquisite sort of pain, cleansing and sharp, cold like mountain water.
The writing itself lends itself to the flurry and rush. At some stage, I always remember how I’d promised myself last time that I’d put some effort into learning to touch type. And then it goes, and I’m off again. The magic of the zone. A kind of furious concentration, nothing conscious about it at all. Like I’ve lost myself. The story spins itself like a spider’s web, gossamer filaments leading away and if I stay there with it, if I can push all the world aside for long enough, then just like a web the supporting lines grow thicker and stronger. Robust enough to catch the insect of a story and bind it tight.
Mostly I have no idea where it has come from or only the vaguest of feelings. I’ve long believed writers are conduits for something much bigger, something ultimately human. Not so much that I can write but that I have learned to listen. Writers have learned, with practice, to distil big things into small, everyman into one. A form of alchemy practiced in the magic of the Arts.
Seriously good writers can do all of this and have the process remain invisible on the page. Smoke and mirrors – like a highly trained dancer – the effort involved never appears in public. Belief can be suspended, adventures explored, worlds changed and time bent.
I’m a long way from there. I can put away a piece of writing for a time, smug in the secret of its inherent cleverness only to re-read it later and hear, more than once, that awful clunk, clunk, clunk of narrative machinery writers know so well. Not so clever. Not listening closely enough. Try again.
Always, behind the writing, is the hope of reaching a reader. Just one. To achieve what writers have done for me countless times in books and stories. Held my hand, comforted, understood, championed and challenged. A writer lends themselves to the reader, for a small charge, and says “Here I am, shall we travel this small time together, you and I? Shall we be companions in this?”
Yes, I say. And Yes again. Take me with you.
Leslie Thiele loves reading books and writing stories. Sometimes she gets mixed up and scribbles ideas in the margins. Her short fiction has been commended and shortlisted in various competitions, and sometimes they have even won! Leslie studies writing at Bunbury’s ECU campus and has learnt more there about a writers craft than she ever managed by herself. Her prize winning story, ‘Harbour Lights’, will be published in Joiner Bay and other stories, the anthology of the 2017 Margaret River Short Story Competition.