You’re sitting in front of a computer, fingers poised over the keyboard. Ideas swirl in your mind, words flash in your subconscious, and you feel yourself mentally writing a sentence. But it’s not on the screen.
Then something happens. The ideas become words that shoot their way across your neurons into the muscles of your fingers. And you begin to type.
It’s a magical moment, that point at which the unseen thoughts in your mind become seen. And any writer will tell you, in hushed tones as if embarrassed, that it is indeed a deep magic.
Sure, we can easily explain the physical act of writing. While we still know little about the brain, we do know enough about neurobiology and linguistics to understand how ideas become words and convey meaning to each other. We know enough about anatomy to track the electrochemical impulses across the brain and down the arms, into the hands on the keyboard. These are the things we can see, and quantify, and color-code.
But what we cannot see, and yet know instinctively, is that writing is an act of war.
An idea floats through your mind like a bird in flight, and you think yes! That’s it! So you reach out to grab the idea, to make it yours and find your own words that fit. Your soul feels a potential lightness of sorts, transcendence in this concept that your mind wants to capture. But words don’t come. Letters fit together clumsily if at all. You are tethered, bound by the limitations of your brain.
Unseen forces attack. They stand behind and around you. Within you. Aren’t you stressed? So your facial muscles tighten and you feel a headache coming on. You don’t have anything to contribute. You hang your head and try to focus, but the idea that once seemed perfect floats farther away and you feel your resolve slipping. You’re wasting time. Then you’re remembering all the other things that remain undone, and your heart rate picks up and your mouth goes dry. What if I’m not good at all? What if I don’t have what it takes? Your own insecurity is the worst enemy of all.
But you press forward. You persist. And in that magical moment, on the frontlines in your soul, courage propels you and somehow those words make it from your brain to your fingers, to the screen.
Writers, if you want to write the unseen, you need only understand the war inside yourself.
(This is the conclusion of my series on writing the unseen.)