There seems to be no end to metaphors for writing. George R. R. Martin famously divides writers into architects and gardeners. E. L. Doctorow said that writing is like driving a car at night. George Orwell compared writing a book to a long bout of some painful illness.
A quick search through the bottomless well of useful information that is the internet reveals a host of others: writing is like walking on a bed of hot coals, taking care of sick children, building a bird’s nest or running a marathon. Writing a novel is, apparently, like giving birth to a child. As a man, I can’t really vouch for that.
Although I have yet to see someone compare writing to chilling on the beach eating ice cream all day, each writer experiences the writing process a little differently. My favourite is Stephen King’s analogy to archaeology:
“Stories are found things, like fossils in the ground... Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered, pre-existing world.”
In the beginning, I’m raking through the dirt haphazardly until I find the first bone. Excited by the discovery, I’m wondering what else might be there, hiding beneath the ground? Is it grave? A cemetery? A forgotten church? An ancient city? I change to a smaller pick proceed with caution. I remove lumps of soil from around the fossil and clean the bones and rusty blades and broken pots with brushes to preserve them as best as I can.
I’m often genuinely surprised by the discoveries I make while writing and where they lead me. When I’m done with a story and look back at it, everything seems to fall into place. I sit behind my desk and wonder how could I possibly make up something like that? It’s an odd sensation, but I feel that the story was always there, like a fossil buried in the ground, and I just happened to find it.
While working on the second draft of my WIP last year, I’d occasionally rewrite a paragraph or two only to find that they were practically identical to the first draft from months ago. Writing can be weird sometimes.
What about you? Are you building nests, taking care of sick children, running a marathon or walking on a bed of hot coals?
What I Am Reading
I’m mid-way through Normal People by Sally Rooney. So far, it seems vaguely in a similar lane as Conversations with Friends. Great characters and incredible writing.
Apart from that, I read Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig. I picked this one up randomly in the supermarket, and I’m glad I did. It’s a collection of essays on how the modern internet can negatively affect our well-being. I’m not a heavy social media user, but I could definitely identify with a lot in this one. Well worth a read!
Next week, I’ll also be reading The People vs Tech by Jamie Bartlett which discusses the threats that the recent developments in AI and data processing/gathering poise to the political stability of the West. I already read The Dark Net from the same author, and this is literally my jam.
Here are stories I read this week:
- The Stoker by Franz Kafka
- Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
- In the Penal Colony by Franz Kafka (reread)
- The New Advocate, A Country Doctor, In the Gallery by Franz Kafka
- An Old Journal, Before the Law, Jackals and Arabs by Franz Kafka
- A Visit to the Mine, The Neighbouring Village, A Message from the Emperor, The Worries of a Head of Household by Franz Kafka
- Eleven Sons, A Fratricide, A Dream by Franz Kafka
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