Write a story every day, part 3: The Threat

After I encouraged you to write a short story every day, I said that finding a story concept is the easy part. What’s the hard part?

Most writers would agree that the blank page or computer screen can be terrifying. What exactly are you going to write? Will it be any good? Do you actually have something to say? And if you do say something, will people listen to you? It’s terrifying to think that nobody wants to hear what you have to say, and terrifying to think that people will indeed hear you—and disagree passionately with your precious words.

Even if you don't mean to show your writing to anybody but yourself, it’s terrifying to write. You can't fathom what is going to come out, what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. The unknown, the uncontrolled, the uncontrollable all lurk within.

Whether real or imaginary, these threats will always be there. The hardest thing when you write is to write despite the threats.

For me, most writing sessions start with a meditation of sorts, lasting from a few minutes up to an hour. I may be sitting at the computer or walking to a café or doing the dishes while I meditate. And the unspoken subject of the meditation is: “Do I agree to act despite all the threats? Or do I refuse to act?” The actual writing session starts when I finally agree to act.

I agree to try and write a short story about the Devil’s pedicurist in Chinatown.

I agree to try and write a scene involving the protagonist of my new novel.

I agree to try and write a blog entry.

I don’t know what’s going to come out, but I agree to it. If some awfully inept piece of writing emerges, I agree to it. If I reveal my handicaps as a writer and human being, I agree to it. If I make a fool of myself, I agree to it. If I face the unknown and it takes a bite out of my soul, I agree to it.

Day by day, page by page, I agree to face the threats. And to gain my own agreement, I must enter a particular frame of mind. I’ll tell you about it in my next blog entry (if I can get myself to agree to it).