There’s something magical about writing. By stringing words together, you can create something out of nothing. You can try out different words and phrases, one after another, link them together like beads, and eventually you’ll have a complete work. In this way, a cast of characters is born, an entire world is built, and a plot plays out.
Even more amazing is that in writing you can affect a reader. Your words can evoke emotions. You can make someone laugh out loud or quietly weep. You can draw them into this world you’ve created and cause them to care about your characters. Someone might read your words and be transported like magic—whether to another time and place or to a different state of mind. It can happen in an instant.
Take the famous six-word story, once thought to have been written by Hemingway:
For sale, Baby shoes, Never worn.
They’re just words. But our minds, our imaginations, give them meaning. The words make us feel. The words paint a picture and create a mood. Yes, if you think about it, to write is to wield a pretty incredible power. No wonder so many people want to be writers. But obviously there’s more to it than stringing words together. I’ve made it sound easy, when it’s so clearly not. Not every combination of words will prompt an emotional response. Some words are just bunk.
Even talented writers have difficulties sometimes. Setting out to write a book can be a daunting endeavor. Who would have thought a blank page could be so intimidating? Yet “writer’s block” is still a challenge a lot of writers contend with at one time or another, even if only temporarily.
Because of this challenge (or, perhaps, because writers tend to live inside their heads so much), many writers have developed special habits to make the magic happen. Some writers have lucky pens or trusty typewriters. Others have writing rituals or quirks to help them communicate with their muse. For many, this involves imbibing a particular drink every time they write. (Alcohol, if you’re an early-twentieth century modernist writer; tea or coffee if you’re a contemporary writer.) For others, the ritual might involve creating a specific atmosphere, such as through music or the background chatter of a coffee house. Others go in the opposite direction, trying to remove all potential distractions. Maya Angelou used to check into a hotel. Many other writers go on retreats or simply isolate themselves in their studios/cabins/basements. (Fortunately, I don’t think anyone ever used the sci-fi invention called The Isolator… though I wouldn’t put it past some writers to try it if the thing really existed.) For me, the magic is in the writing process itself. When I was writing my first book, Midsummer Night’s Mischief, I had this mantra I would say to myself over and over:
The book is already written.
I felt it in my bones. The book was complete; it already existed. My job was just to uncover it. I recalled the words of Michelangelo: “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” I imagined myself as the sculptor, chipping away at my block of stone. All I had to do was keep at it, and I would eventually reveal the finished work within. But there’s more to the magic of writing than mind games. I truly believe there’s an incredible thing that happens through the act of writing. It’s like something you might read about in an ancient creation myth: the very act of writing gives birth to more writing. It’s a creative process that generates more creativity.
At least that’s how it feels for me.
For me, the process of putting words to paper sparks more ideas. For example, I may have a general idea about what’s going to happen in a scene. I’ll describe the setting and place a character in it. And then I’ll just start writing to see what happens next. Ideas come to me as I write. Perhaps there’s nothing really mystical about this. Perhaps it’s all very scientific. But I still find it quite amazing. It truly feels like the creation of something out of nothing—even if the “nothing” is actually the whole gob of thoughts, ideas, inspirations, and fantasies rolling around in my brain. It still feels… magical, the way it all works out.
As William H. Gass said in A Temple of Texts: “The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.”
Speaking of alchemy, writer Bethany Reid found that writing every day can transform, not just your writing, but your life. Her blog, A Writer’s Alchemy, includes lots of writerly inspiration, should you need it.
This magic of writing, this mysterious phenomenon that happens in both the creation of writing and its influence, is the kind of magic that happens in my new book series, The Wiccan Wheel Mysteries. In the series, my protagonist is a Wiccan sleuth who practices law, solves mysteries, and also happens to cast spells and worship nature. But this is not supernatural magic. It’s ultra-natural. It’s the kind of magic you can believe in.
Get yourself a copy of Midsummer Night’s Mischief. Click on the book cover image!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer David Hesse is an environmental attorney by day and author by night. Midsummer Night’s Mischief is her debut book in the new Wiccan Wheel series. Born and raised in Central Illinois, Jennifer now makes her home in Chicago with her husband, guitarist Scott Hesse, and their daughter, Sage. When she’s not writing, Jennifer enjoys yoga, hiking, and movie night with her family.
Please visit her at www.JenniferDavidHesse.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/AuthorJenniferDavidHesse.