The Passion of Writing

Once in a while it’s good to step back from the edge and perform a ritual cleansing of the mind. Writing, like all passions, is an enterprise of risk. I’m not talking about rejection. Rejection and acceptance take place long after the words are written; after work is out the door, those words become someone else’s. The risk I’m referring to is writing in the first place, because writing moves you toward the center of things, that void between the crowded coastlines of consensus, wisdom, and security.

The center of things is an uncomfortable place, the empty quarter, a place without markers or features. This is fly over country, but writers walk toward it without knowing what they might find. The great fear is that we’ll find nothing, wander in circles, die of thirst. Very few books find their way into this terrain, but all the great ones do, or die trying. Commercial success is a pale measure; no one is uncomfortable in its company, or uneasy with its message. That’s like a ride on the coast highway, pleasant, beautiful, crowded.

At the center of things rocks shine like diamonds, the air bites the tongue, the wind brings the scent of the ancient earth. This is where we started from, a place few ever find. The source of memories we all share but have forgotten, stark, wild, and unchanging. This is where we’re trying to get to whenever we write, the place we strive to describe and bring to life.