It was a cold and stormy night...

I have always been interested in writing. Putting words and thoughts on paper fascinates and entertains me. It is difficult to explain why, but it does. And it probably does not need really require an explanation.

I suppose that if I ever lost my sight, I would continue writing somehow, though I’m not sure how, or even why.

But then I don’t know why I write now. I just do.

I think that is true of most writers, they just write. They just do. Even bad ones.

And yes, not everyone is a writer (though I will concede that everyone has a story to tell). There are writers who are writers and are not sure that they are. But they are.


Hemingway himself once wrote: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Was he on to something? I have always wondered about that, but by and large, I agree with him. A lot of pain goes into writing, and I don’t know that everyone (including myself) can do it. Bleeding, though easy enough, is certainly not painless. And it usually leaves a mark on your body. I suppose writing does too.

And so I have read many writers who spoke about their craft. Our craft. This thing we do.

Some mention how easy it is, how relaxed. How it is a form of therapy for them.

Some 'frutti di bosco'.

I respect that. I understand that writing can be cathartic.

It brings things out.

But writing is also painful. Mostly painful.

Not just plain painful. We are talking pain of the fancy type. Caramelized frutti di bosco, pain with shredded white chocolate on top. And then some.

You are giving birth to people, and ideas, and situations that did not exist before. Much like children, there is a painful birthing process, let no one tell you otherwise.

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” Toni Morrison.

So simple, right?

So straightforward.

Yet, those simple words will haunt you as a writer no end. Creation can be such an excruciating and long-winded process. And the worst part? You never know when you are done. Not really.

Jackson Pollock was once asked about his work. “How do you know when you are finished with a painting?
His reply?

How you do you know when you are finished fucking?

When you read a book, you never learn about the pain behind it. You may read author interviews where they tell you where they got the idea, or how they went about putting it to paper. Yet you never hear about the pain and heartache behind each chapter.

Behind every first line. Behind dialogue. Or the ending. Or the various bits in between.

You don’t hear about editing, or self-censorship. About how you often think you are an idiot for even attempting to do this. About how you can feel insecure, lost, mistaken, amiss.

No, as readers, all we care is about the end product. The finished work.

It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way”. Hemingway.

I recall the books I’ve read. The authors I just simply couldn’t put down. And I have tried to analyze what it was about them that kept me reading. Tried to capture some of their brilliance in my own work.

It is obvious that behind every thought, character and setting, there is a degree of suffering on the part of the writing. Perhaps that is why we react to books and literature as we do. Because we can recognize the pain for we too have felt it.

That is how (probably) great authors are born. Through pain and suffering.

But, as with everything else in life, there’s different kinds of pain, and as readers we react to that which speaks to us.

Two different people can be reading the same book by the same author and react differently. One may love it, and the other hate it. One may think it is brilliant, and the other might think it is just not worth turning another page.


A couple of weeks ago I was at my regular Tuesday meeting for writers in Madrid (The Madrid Writers Group).

We were all sitting close to each other, writing away on that evening’s exercise; I looked up at two of the people nearest to me. I was amazed at how they wrote.
Both of them were writing on lined (ruled) paper. 

One of them was just ignoring the lines and writing in a manner perpendicular to them. The other, more creatively, wrote diagonally across both pages.

Ruled paper.

I was surprised!

Initially I thought it showed a great disrespect for the paper itself, this just ignoring its pre-set ‘paths’.

Then, I figured, it just meant that this was the way the felt most comfortable writing. Just as I am most comfortable writing within (more or less) the lines and margins.

But ultimately, it was enlightening to see how they took a medium and redefined it.

Artists often do that.

I would argue it is one of the things that makes an artist: redefinition.

As I walked home that night, I was glad to have been surprised that evening. Their writing patterns had certainly been very enlightening. Challenging even. It is what initially inspired this post.

‘Just So’

Having seen how other people wrote, how they molded the medium to themselves, and not the other way around, I started to think about how unimportant -it would appear- the medium is.

Although it isn’t.

Not really.

Writing depends on so many other things too.

To write, as I believe, any writer will tell you, you need to be comfortable in every single way.

Everything must be ‘just so’.

The right kind of pen and paper, or keyboard, or type writer. The right type of lighting, of environment, of ambient sound. Yes, even that.

The right kind of ambient noise is also extremely important for creativity, which is why so many writers are to be found in coffee shops all over the place.

And, according to many, there’s a reason for that:

A moderate level of noise enhances creativity compared to both low and high levels of noise. Moderate background noise induces distraction which encourages individuals to think at a higher, abstract level, and consequently exhibit higher creativity”, (from the Rainy Café website).

But just in case you can’t go to one, you can always stream reality into your own setting.

Just go to either Rainy Café, or my regular favorite: Coffitivity.

And the Craft…

So, there you are. With the right kind of everything in place. You, your stuff, and your ideas, all set to go.

So, in this day and age, what’s the first thing you do once you are all set to go?

That’s right, you take your phone out and check your messages.

God knows you cannot write another word, your characters cannot utter another sentence, and your plotline cannot advance, until you have checked every single bit of social media going on in your life!

From facebook to instagram, and everything else in between, your social presence must be checked, re-checked, and updated before your intellectual endeavors can take place.

Those cat pictures need your ‘likes’.

What your friends had for dinner last night need a little ‘heart’ and a comment: “Wish I’d been there!

Anything to avoid the pain that you know is coming, right?

So you do all that, and, somehow, manage to get it out of the way and concentrate on the task at hand.

And then, you start to bleed…