Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Assembly [UPDATED]

This is a piece I wrote one night a few months ago, and I just recently came across it as I was perusing my writing archives folder. I thought it provided a bit of insight into how my writing works, and I thought that my friends (and various other readers) might be interested. So here it is.

The sky was black, I remember that vividly. There were lamps on the streets, the houses were all dark fronts with glowing eyes, and you could see fairly easily by the carlights. But there was no mistaking that black sky.

I was tired, just about to walk up those too narrow steps to my room and fall asleep inside, away from the chill in the air and that awful wind that just wouldn't quit. But at the moment, I was leaning against a green and orange taxicab as my housemate's girlfriend handed over the cash we owed the driver.

I turned and looked to my right, to the south, and saw nothing but asphalt stretching to the curve of the horizon. The only cars on the road looked dead, with their eyes closed. It's an eerie and comfortable feeling, all at once like that, to gaze down an empty street in a bustling city. At two in the morning. Feeling the yawns that want to beat you into a pulp. Realizing that you had to get some sleep for the next day. And not wanting to.

Why not? My juices were flowing. Maybe not at the speed they could have been, but it was enough to boil things over. It always happens after I see a good flick. Never fails - I'll get into my car afterwards and go racing down the empty streets, burning gas, trying to keep up with the thoughts in my head. If the movie's really good, maybe I'll sit down and write a little something. But that inspiration is a fleeting thing, and I don't want to lose it. That's why I don't want to go to sleep - because if you close your eyes on this thing, this little nub of a chance, if you shut it down, then it's not going to come back. That little spark is a temporary morsel, and you've got to grab it while you can.

Which is probably why I'm writing now. That spark can be used, needs to be used, and it can be made to do most anything. So long as it is creating (for me, it has to be writing), it gets satisfied - and once it's satisfied, it's all used up. So whatever else you do, you also have to make sure it's worth it. That's another frustration that comes with writing: how do you know that what you're doing is gonna be any good? Is gonna be worth anything? How do you know that what you are jotting down at this very moment is gonna make any difference, or leave any lasting impression? You don't.

You can't. So you just grab that flame of creation and you run like mad. You scramble to put down whatever it is that needs to be scribbled, and you struggle. Not at first, the embers do those opening paragraphs for you; but after that initial rush is gone, you struggle. And that's where most of my ideas get bogged down. They run into a wall (it has different names, sometimes "truth," sometimes "research," sometimes "boredom," sometimes "confusion") that you have to push through. You have to force it. Which really seems ridiculous. When do I do my best writing? When I'm not forcing it. When do I finish anything I start? When I force it (or when it's short).

Have you ever heard the sound of your own voice, and cringed? I do that. I do the same thing when I read some of the awful prose and poetry I construct, too. But every so often, I'll reread something I've jotted down - not ideas, but actual honest-to-goodness writing - and say to myself, "I wonder who wrote that? That's good." It's those moments that make things click, that keep me trying; because I realize in those instances that I have the raw material that's required. I've just got to get it assembled.

So I tear my eyes away from that incredible sky, stumble upstairs, and collapse in front of the computer. With any luck, this time it'll be good.

I just went back over the piece and streamlined it, fixed a few errors, and fine-tuned the tone. I may do this again in the future, too. Polish, polish, polish.
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A webjournal of ideas, comments, and various other miscellany from a Texan university student (with occasional input from his family) living in Toronto, Ontario. Can you say "culture shock?"

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