Why I Write
in poetic pursuit of that 1% (#1000wordsofsummer day 11)
i'm learning to be a little more generous with myself, with my self. it's always easiest to slack off when things aren't perfect, and things are definitely not perfect now – it's day 4 of my Norovirus recovery, and i've lost the will to write completely.
i've spent the whole day nursing a migraine and painstakingly climbing back onto the work-bandwagon for a client training we have scheduled for Friday. but then i read this glorious piece by Rachel Syme in today's Craft Talk, and tears sprung to my eyes. she says:
"To quote Nora Ephron, the hardest thing about writing is writing. But the real drug that keeps me coming back, I’ve found, is not the moments when I know I’m writing well. It’s that one percent of the time when I’m having so much delirious fun that it feels indecent; when I feel like a kid again because I am click-clacking out words to please myself and not thinking at all about the outcome. I’ll chase that one percent forever, even if it comes around once a year."
i remember those days with fond, caramel-sticky certainty. sitting at my father's bulky hunk of a monitor, my little 9-year-old fingers tap-tap-taping on the ancient keyboard. this was the early 2000's, and there wasn't yet Google Docs or Scrivener; just Windows 98 Microsoft Word and a hopeful, funny little girl who loved to write.
her love for the craft was so pure – she'd loved Martin Mystery, a horror-crime anime that aired for a short while on Nickelodeon; so to keep the story going, she used her imagination. the term "fan fiction" didn't exist then; she was just excited to make something of her own. and she did! i don't remember much from it, but each chapter was named after an Alphabet, so there were at least 26 chapters. it was my first novella, printed, bound and stapled. i was so proud of it. i was so proud of *myself*.
i wish i still had a copy of it, to remind myself of what's possible when you go back to basics: the chase of the thrill, the joy of the craft. there are days, like today, where i can't get in touch with it, no matter how hard i try. and i guess that's the whole point – you're not supposed to try. you're supposed to *respond*. to read, to watch, to open your heart up to things, and allow them to take you places.
i didn't expect to cry over a newsletter today. i didn't expect it to move me to write. (though, full disclosure, it wasn't so much that than my commitment to this challenge, and the fact that i'd already fallen short of my goal for three days in a row.) but that's just an excuse, right? writers, we want to be seen. we want to be read, heard, understood. we're just afraid of what other people might think. but i think it's not supposed to matter... because what truly counts, is how we feel in the process.
and the readers, they can feel it. they can feel it when the words flow like water out of your fingertips; when a particular line fizzes and winks, a splint glowing in the dark. so much of Art these days feels... inhuman. formulaic, rote; like we're all just going through the motions. "feed the algorithm". "one TikTok a day." "keep the fans happy!" and so we go-go-go-go like we're cogs in a machine, instead of artists, who need time to feel, to fail; to get kicked around by Life a little, and live to tell the tale.
i just re-watched a dance movie i loved in 2020, "Work It". it's about this high school straight-A cutie, Sabrina Carpenter, who starts a dance club to get into her dream college and falls in love. my favorite scenes are the ones where she's dancing with her beau, Jordan Fisher – and he helps her get out of her own head. being bed-ridden for the past few days, the sense of movement, of freedom, that dance brings – it's a relief. and you could just *tell* that the dancers are having a great time with each other. sometimes, that's all Art is, isn't it? showing each other a good time. that's what i aspire towards. for someone to read my words, and feel... lighter. understood. at home. i've lost count of the number of times i've pored over a page, or a doc, or a book, and found that exact phrase that encapsulated how i feel. that made me feel less alone. an exhale. a benediction. that's how i felt today, with Rachel's words. and that's how i hope you feel, too, dear reader, when you read mine.
i've been questioning myself a lot lately. why do i write? who do i write for? wHo Is My AuDiEnCe? i'm slowly learning that i don't need to have all the answers right now – i can write my way to them. as a Pisces stellium i think i can *think* my way through a lot of things, but that isn't true. real life so often isn't how i've made it out to be in my head. and the only way to make sh*t happen... is to make sh*t happen. show up. sit down, and write. let your words go. let them flow. and let yourself be seen. it's not as terrifying as you think it is. and even if it is, you'll live through it. you always do.
i've been subscribing to lots of Substack newsletters lately, to gain inspiration (1,000 words a day is no small feat). i came across a piece on James Clear, and i don't know, it felt like seeing an old friend who had made it big. i used to follow James Clear in 2014, when only a handful of productivity enthusiasts read his blog and 'Atomic Habits' didn't yet exist. he talks a lot about the 1% rule – becoming 1% better each day, but honestly, i like Rachel's take better. we miss 100% of the shots we don't take. we get 1% better when we put in our 1,000 daily words.
but once in a while, in the midst of the grind and the hustle, we'll encounter that magical 1% – the one that brings us back to our childhood, fingers flying unbidden over the keys, trying to keep up with the glorious world unfolding within us – and it'll be all worth it.
that is why i stay. that is why i fight. and that, is why i write.