December 18, 2015 - When I was a teenager, I used to love to talk on the phone with my sister, who was several years older than I and had already moved out of the house. When we were alone together on the telephone I could say anything I wanted to her, and I came away enriched and knowing I had been heard.
But sometimes I would get stuck on a “family call,” where everyone was on a different extension and we would all talk as a group. At those times, I had nothing to say, and I would come away empty and unheard.
I believe writing is the same way.
In his book On Writing, Steven King speaks about writing with the door closed and with the door open. He would spend several months – and drafts – writing his books in secret, sharing them with no one, and only after he had them just the way he wanted them, would he seek outside editing and critique. He wrote “with the door closed” until he had created his own vision. He then wrote “with the door open,” taking advice from others on how to make his vision more accessible or powerful for his audience.
This approach embodies a power that is both strong and subtle. I know I carry so many voices in my head – teachers, particular readers, family members, colleagues – and if I imagine any one of them responding to me as I write, however fleeting, I lose my ability. The ONLY way I can write is to know I am in my own space, writing for myself, in my own way. This applies to everything from books to blog posts, from personal projects to collaborative efforts. The most energy I put into any of my writing is in shutting out those voices and judgments, real or imagined, centering myself, grounding myself, and opening myself to hear the words that want to be said – my words. And AFTER they have been said to my satisfaction, I can let them go and share and polish and collaborate.
I have learned, for me, that whenever writing becomes difficult, all I really have to do is look at the door and make sure it closes with that last little click, knowing I can open it again when I am done.