An analogy I keep returning to, with regards to writing, is this: writing is like a microscope. It gravitates to the small. I’m not referring to the exposition, or setting, or details surrounding a character or event. What I mean is: writing gets close to the writing. During the process of writing, what is ordinarily taken for granted spikes in significance. Ordinary things like focusing on the letters constituting words and the spaces in between them, or how a word suddenly becomes the foreground of the writer’s focus, or even the quality of light draping the writer’s environment. All of which are magnified details. Another detail is the weight—invisible but sharply felt—of writing.
There’s a preexisting weight to writing—what to write, how to take wonder and turn it into words. It’s taking whatever signals of storytelling are simmering between the ears, bubbling within the rib cage, bouncing back and forth between the writing surface and the writer—and trying to translate those signals into words.
This is a static weight. It’s mutable, but indifferent. The more the weight of writing is lifted, the greater the weight of writing is felt. Moving the weight may sometimes feel like you’re levitating or that you’re stuck in molasses. It’s a tug of stubbornness, and it never ends. Because if the force of stubbornness vanished, writing would be easy to invite and execute. The weight of writing is immortal to keep the mortal challenge of writing perfectly intact.
At the same time the weight of writing poses challenge, it also provides a benefit—the immediate recognition of putting words on surface. It could be a phrase, or even a pronoun in the first person. Where there was a blank slate now resides a visual mark. This is the inherent benefit of writing—instant visual feedback. It’s filling a void with the iterative shape of a thought. This is when writing magnifies the small—the humble character count you achieved during your writing practice, the incremental work done in developing a part of your manuscript, the first sentences of your new essay, book, play, blog post—whatever the resulting form may be.
I feel small when I write, especially in the beginning, but also when returning to an existing piece. Writing time goes fast, even when nothing was written. But what helps to reconcile the gap of time spent residually going through the feelings and thoughts of writing, with the number of words produced after several minutes or a few hours, is the satisfaction that there are some marks on the writing surface when it could have been easily been none. The only reason why the words are present is because you put them there. The words are staring back at you, for you made them visible. You moved the weight of writing to reveal the words gurgling within you to now settle on the page.
Having written is a fleeting moment of satisfaction. The weight of writing remains, ever-fixed on challenging your next inclination to write for the nth time. It’s an overly stubborn weight, but not overwhelming, because it can be moved. You moved it before, and you can move it again—to feel, however short-lived, big.