Born with minds wide open, children’s eyes see
an extraordinary world
filled with limitless possibilities.
But eventually, they will be taught
there are no dragons or witches that fly,
the sun is not nailed or glued to the sky.
You can’t lie on your back and walk on clouds,
the distance between says that’s not allowed.
Science and physics determine these rules
and if you ignore them, it’s harder at school.
So learn to think “normal” like all the rest,
or you might not pass the standardized tests!
In 1993, I enrolled in a college English class (it was a ‘core’ requirement). For the first few weeks, the professor discussed the proper way to write a good story. She said that, before writing, an author has to outline a plot, create backgrounds and personality traits for various characters, and figure out some sort of conflict between them that needs to be resolved. Her long list of writing rules and constraints were overwhelming me. I sighed as I watched my creativity cringe, shrivel up, and vanish. There is no way I can write this way!
It got worse. The next time I went to class, the professor said, “Please take out a piece of blank paper. Your first test is going to be an ‘In-Class Essay.’ You will have the length of this class (50 minutes) to write a 3 to 5 page paper about your writing process. This will count as 20 percent of your grade.”
Oh No! I had not developed a writing process that even vaguely resembled what she had been teaching. Doomed! What was I going to write? I looked at the clock. Five minutes had already passed and my paper was still blank. I had no time left to waste. I was going to have to write about how I write (and not about how she wanted me to write). I had no choice.
Now, even though it has been 20 years since then, I did keep a copy of that graded paper as proof that miracles can happen. Because of this rather strange and hastily written essay, the English professor gave me permission to forget everything she was teaching and continue writing outside of the box. Here is what I wrote:
February 18, 1993
My writing process is a strangely disorganized organization. When thoughts wander into my mind demanding attention, I listen. At the request of the voice, I write.
Because I am easily distracted, I find writing late at night more productive. No phone calls, no door bells ringing, no people talking—only the moonlight running its cool fingers through the trees, stimulating the darkness. It is then that I can hear, most clearly, the Voice of the One Who Lives in the Air.
I met the Voice years ago, in a dream. Although it never mentioned grammatical rules and regulations, it taught me the essence of writing. It said, “Remember you are not the creator. You cannot make what already is. Without resistance, simply and clearly, let it become for others to know.”
These words are the foundation of my writing process. Words contain only traces of the elements that they represent. They are symbols. Life itself is the true writer. With this in mind, I begin writing—carefully looking between the words, behind the words, and beyond the symbols.
I write in short spurts, because (admittedly) I have a rather short attention span. Easily tired, I often find myself wandering into my own thoughts, looking for a convenient place to rest. Sometimes, I can find nowhere to pause, nowhere to stop the process. It is then that I stumble downstairs for a glass of tea. Writing is time-consuming and intense, and some nights I have not patience for it.
I produce my first draft by think-writing. The thoughts think themselves and I write them down so I can see what they are trying to say. The unruly thoughts can go on for many pages before they decide on a central idea. I try to stay out of their way at this point, because I am at their mercy and they are usually out of control. If I try to force the thoughts and intimidate them with narrow lines and spaces, they vanish like smoke.
When the words stop flowing, the next part of the process begins. Finally, it’s my time to create. I study the words from every direction and decide which position is most appropriate for each one. They complain as I drag them from here to there—they know that I really don’t know what I am doing!
Suddenly, out of chaos, a certain order begins to appear. One word enlightens another, and sentences begin to form willingly. Energy between words builds a certain excitement in the writing, and new thoughts begin to gossip between the lines. Once again, I observe the thoughts, waiting for them to finish their conversations. They present me with new ideas, and I reposition them accordingly.
My writing process never ends. It is a searching, a searching for truth. It communicates new dimensions, new perspectives—opening doors that I never knew existed. I am not very concerned with form, because I am focused on content. Re-writing is simply a clarification process, an attempt to uncover the mysteries that dance in the air. Writing is an Un-doing, a re-evaluation of preconceived notions, the secret passageway between the seen and unseen.