Writing: Playing With Matches.

I fell in love — that is the only expression I can think of — at once, and am still at the mercy of words, though sometimes now, knowing a little of their behavior very well, I think I can influence them slightly and have learned to beat them now and then, which they appear to enjoy.

Dylan Thomas

I talk a lot about writing and magic — that magical writing that takes hard-won quality of craft and which forges an instant connection with the reader.

Yesterday, as I was cleaning shrimp, removing the tiniest, most fragile vein, it reminded me of the magic in writing. The best writing finds that vein in the mind and heart and plugs in effortlessly.

Magical writing is an easy communication, a writing that appears effortless. Magical writing is a form of validation that inside these minds and bodies (and especially hearts) we’re not alone — someone else recognizes that inner landscape and describes it with a sense of communion or wonder.

That’s what I strive for in my writing, and it’s only when I’m querying my work that the doubtful fog creeps in. While I want my writing to be perfect, I know perfection isn’t possible. I don’t find the magic, there. 

Perhaps the magic is like a candle on the kitchen counter, flickering as you pound away at the computer, lighting the way as you work your craft. Go to the light! You may be tempted to sanitize your writing, edit it into cardboard or endlessly doubt or berate your grasp of the English language, especially when you know an agent may not read past the first paragraph. 

Go to the light.

That’s where the magic lives. I write my way there with all my might. 

Sure, it’s a candle in the wind — a writer’s efforts at publication versus being true to ones writing self. But in being true, therein lies the magic — and perhaps the magic will work its magic, being magic, after all.

If magical writing is a deep breath that inhales the world, then self-doubt is the exhale that blows it out.

Go to the light.


6 Responses

  1. Oh Em,

    Gorgeous, gorgeous post.
    And perfect timing due to what I’m struggling with right now. In my own latest post I mention about needing the first page to be flawless.

    I was so happy during NaNo. I was in the story, loving it. And now, as I’m revising, I’m again worrying about what potential agents will think. It’s so stifling.

    And what *is* flawless? Some of my favorite novels are actually greatly flawed. Jane Eyre? Charlotte really goes on mad, editless rants in it. But it’s exactly that heat, that passion that makes it so great to me. On the other hand, while Jane Austen was technically great, she’s always left me cold.

    Thanks for posting this. You did at the perfect time for me. 🙂

  2. I read your comment, Tasha, and thought, ditto, ditto, ditto.

    Some of my most favorite writers weren’t the best technical writers. Many people grumble about J.K. Rowling’s writing style, and yet the Harry Potter series are pure magic.

    I think I perhaps do better with less reading up on it all, because it kills the magic. My best is my best, regardless of the rest of it.

    {{{{{{{ Tasha }}}}}}}}} I’m standing in the same inner landscape.

  3. I think you’re totally right about good writing seeming effortless. I’m always in awe when I read a book that seems perfect, seems effortless. But behind it all, I’ll bet there was an author biting fingernails over many sentences before they became so magical.

    I always say, edit, yes, but don’t judge (which turns your writing into cardboard, as you say). Let others do the judging for you. Your job is simply to work the magic.

  4. There she is. : ) Hey, Steph.

    I wrote this post thinking about a conversation I had yesterday concerning (waves to Tasha) the first paragraph of ones work, according to a famous Writer’s Conference, written about by Anne Mini on her blog:


    Made me shake in my boots, and worry, worry, worry.

    But, I’m all better, today. : )

    Check it out, and then tell me what you think from your place in the biz.


  5. It can get difficult to find the light sometimes especially when you are thinking about whether or not any one else will find the magic in your story. It’s a constant battle but I think you’ve pinned everything–just to concentrate on pouring your heart and soul into your work.

  6. Hey Dara. : )

    You summed it up beautifully.

    If we start writing just for the sake of getting published, the art, and hence, the magic, gets sacrificed.

    It’s so hard because the temptation is always there, especially if receiving rejection letter after rejection letter.

    But, I’m in it for the art; I’ll always remain true to the art — the magic — no matter what.


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