Whence Come The Words

Some handcrafted inspiration from my sister

I write every single day. Every single day—regardless of whether I’m happy or sad, healthy or sick, hungover or sparkling with energy—I pull my writing chair up to my desk and settle in to do my .87. Blessed are the nights that I start my writing session with inspiration, because most of the time I get going with merely determination.

But once underway, the words somehow arrive like delivered packages into my mind. Without much struggle, they slide down my arms and into my fingertips and appear on the screen as I type. Once I get to the stopping place, I might go back and read what I’ve written, and more often than not, I’m surprised by what’s on the page. Mysteriously, while I was sitting diligently in my chair, words assembled themselves into sentences—sometimes really lovely ones—that convey the characters or setting or plot in a direction that I hadn’t forseen, that I hadn’t known was even possible an hour before. Even more magical is when they fit precisely into the overall story, as though I’d spent hours or weeks planning and organizing them. I peruse them not as the author but as reader, and I wonder: where did these words and ideas come from?

Sometimes I think: I’m not a writer, I’m a channeler.

How could these words have come from my imagination? It didn’t feel like work, so it must not have been my own effort. Sure, I kept my butt in my seat until my goal had been met, but my mind didn’t ache; I didn’t bang my head on the desk hoping the right words would shake loose. There must be some bygone artist who died before she was finished telling her stories, and she’s chosen me to be her medium—not because of my own talent, but because I am unflaggingly, stubbornly devoted to reaching my quota. If I were her, floating in some collective ether, I’d pick me, too, for simply that reason.

I have a dear friend who patiently listens to me bemoan the fact that I struggle with the fact that my words come from a place that I don’t understand or control. I think: if I could understand or control it, then perhaps I could claim them as my own. But even though nobody else is denying me credit for the work I do, I still feel as guilty as though I’d consciously plagiarized another writer’s creativity.

But of course there is no way to know for certain whence come the words. Their arrival and assemblage are beautiful and mysterious, and if I could break it down and explain it, the mystery would vanish. Perhaps I should simply be grateful for the inspiration, and return the favor with my dedication. Because somehow, where those two intersect, the words always appear, from wherever they do.